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ClexaCon: A Safehaven for Queer Actors and Content Creators

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It’s been a week since ClexaCon ended, and I finally feel up to talking about it. Not because I haven’t had anything to say, but because I’ve honestly been recovering from the worst con crud I’ve ever had for the past week (I’m still coughing and sneezing, but at least I don’t feel like I’m dying anymore and napping 3x a day!). However, the prolonged time has given me space to fully flesh out my initial reactions.

Coming home last year, I was more focused on how ClexaCon solidified my personal writing and career goals. This year is a little different. Rather than thinking about what the con means to me, as an attendee and panelist, I find myself reflecting on what it means to the queer actors and creators. What it means for them to have this space, too.

It all started at Ascension—the afterparty Saturday night. Several of the celebrities showed up and mingled with fans, something they didn’t have to do and showcased just how invested they were in us and our community. While watching Stephanie Beatriz get down with Isabella Gomez to the delight of the room, my friend Leah (one of the organizers of TGIFemslash, who we interviewed last year) pointed out that being surrounded by queer women who love her and her work must be a relief for Beatriz. For the first time, she gets to be the big star. Her existence as a queer woman of color is not just acknowledged but celebrated. That got me thinking: ClexaCon isn’t just a safe space for the attendees, it’s a safe space for queer actors, too.

I found Stephanie Beatriz walking the vendor floor and gave her a button that said, “It’s very embarrassing having feelings.” She was both delighted and delightful!

Where else does Stephanie Beatriz get to talk openly about her bisexuality and the bisexuality of her character and be met with cheers? Where else does Erica Luttrell get to be openly affectionate with her girlfriend and be greeted not with disgust or avoidance but happy tears and heart-eyes? Where else can queer actors dress how they want and be surrounded by folks who look like them?

As attendees, we’re so used to thinking about how important the con is in providing a space for us to be visible and see ourselves reflected in everyone around us. That’s true. This year, I thought about that being true for the actors as well. Not just us, but they get to be in a room of women who are just like them. How often does that happen for them? Even in Hollywood, probably not all that often.

More than that, how often do they get to be the stars? How often do actors like Briana Venskus, Dot Marie Jones, Rachel Paulson, and Nicole Pacent get to be the actors that fans are lining up for and hype to get autographs, selfies, and photo ops with? How frequently do you think Elise Bauman and Natasha Negovanlis get to be some of the biggest stars in the room? When do these queer women get to be not just adjacent to the action, but the main attraction?

We’re here to see them and that means just as much to them as it does to us. They’re getting recognition and hype for being queer women who play queer female characters. They have space to celebrate who they are as much as we do. That’s HUGE.

And even for straight actors playing queer female characters, how often is it that the queerness of the role they’re playing is the main draw?

On Saturday, staff was shorthanded on volunteers in the autograph lines, so I signed myself up to help out. I ended up in Chyler Leigh’s line scanning tickets and let me tell you, I was getting emotional listening to fans talk to her. I’m sure at other cons she gets to hear stories like the ones I heard, but imagine that being the only story you hear over and over. “You’re so important to me as an actor because Alex helped me accept that I’m gay.” “Alex helped me come out to my parents.” “Alex’s conversation with Kara was exactly like talking to my sister, and I cried watching it because of how important that was to see.” All these and more.

For actors who truly care about the representation they’re embodying with their characters, as all the actors at ClexaCon do, being bombarded with love, support, and celebration of the work they’re doing must be one of the most fulfilling experiences. They might get flak from family, friends, or other people in the industry for portraying a queer character. They might have people say awful things to them because of the choice to support queer rep and do it well. But at ClexaCon, all they get is love. And them receiving that is important because they may not get it elsewhere.

That’s why I got so angry when I heard about how short the autograph lines were for Nafessa Williams after I finished my volunteer shift. She plays Anissa Pierce on Black Lightning—a literal bulletproof black lesbian and, in my opinion, the most important queer female superhero on TV right now (no offense to White Canary or Alex Danvers) because of that. Yet she wasn’t being given the same level of recognition as other actors were. This is her place to shine and be lauded for everything she’s doing for queer women of color representation and yet…it wasn’t happening the way I expected and wanted it to. Given the levels of racism and homophobia in our society, Nafessa Williams deserved to be celebrated at ClexaCon, because if not there, where else?

Because to me, ClexaCon isn’t just a chance to gush about ships—though I do understand why that’s such a huge draw—it’s a space to participate in and listen to conversations about layered identities. Where else can we discuss what it means to be queer and mentally ill? Or about being queer and disabled? Or queer and non-white? Where else do those conversations get to be not just in the margins, but the main attractions?

I participated in three panels this year, and what has surprised me most is that the one I’ve gotten the most positive feedback from is the Neurodiversity in Writing panel I moderated. (Fellow managing editor Kylie and Fandomentals writers Lisa and Kristen were the panelists.) Sure, I got a lot of people saying how much they loved the Korrasami panel and my Responsibility of Media Makers panel (you can find both of those panels on YouTube). But I’ve had more people go out of their way to email, Tumblr message, or tweet me and my fellow panelists about the neurodiversity panel.

That tells me something. It tells me that this is a conversation people are desperate to have but have no space for. They’re so grateful that we talked about it because no one else is making that space for them. Which, again, is why ClexaCon is so necessary and why it’s important that it not just be about shipping. Because we as queer women don’t get space to talk about ourselves and our layered identities anywhere else. And we need that if we’re going to change the way stories about us are told.

Panels such as these allow us to talk about ourselves and what we want to see when it comes to representation. They’re a form of activism because we’re advocating for our own stories. We have to carve this space out for ourselves because no one else will. And if we don’t have these conversations ourselves, how can what we say get back to the actual content creators in a way that they can listen to and reflect on when they’re creating art?

Most content creators don’t go online and listen to marginalized fans about how they want their stories told. Some do, but most don’t. As much as I hate that it has to be this way, conventions are a recognized means of bringing attention to issues in a way that content creators might be more likely to listen to. Even then, there’s no guarantee they will pay attention. Still, panels at a convention ‘look’ professional to the media industry and are more likely to be acknowledged. They spark conversations that can ripple into something bigger.

Nevertheless, some of the content creators are in the room and they’re listening to us. And I don’t just mean the industry professionals like Emily Andras of Wynonna Earp or Gloria Calderon Kellet and Mike Royce of One Day at a Time. It’s great to have advocates within the industry who are writing and creating nuanced queer stories and characters. But they aren’t the only ones who deserve our attention.

ClexaCon is bursting with original content creators who either haven’t found a way to break into the industry or want to do things differently. Three times as many booths filled the vendor hall this year. Most of the fanartists also create their own original art, and I saw more book booths this year than last year, which makes my bibliophile heart happy to see. We need more queer books and the queer books we do have deserve more recognition, especially those being produced outside of traditional publishing avenues.

A selection of art I purchased at ClexaCon plus the poster I brought and had Erica Luttrell sign. Art by marburusu, Atomic Pixies, Foley, Fresh & Irie Arts, and Paige One Comics.

ClexaCon presents a unique opportunity for queer women and allies to support queer content creators. There’s art or books to buy, films at the film festival to see, and plenty of time to talk about new projects and how to support a creator who is in media res. That’s why I always take cash with me to ClexaCon. I look at it as an opportunity to put my money where my mouth is by supporting queer original content creators.

It’s also why I take my microphone with me so that I can interview a creator or two for my Creator Corner series. I met Foley at ClexaCon last year—my all-time favorite fanartist for SuperCorp and Supergirl as well a really talented author and webcomic artist. This year, I met up with original fiction and fic author Rae D. Magdon to talk about her most recent book. I also caught up with the folks from the Clexa Project, who interviewed me last year and are still working on their documentary film about challenging industry standards for representation.

Not that everyone can do interviews or can afford to buy a lot of original art. The point is that I can. I have a position of relative privilege when it comes to spending cash and the added privilege of an online platform (however small it is) that I can use to benefit them. I truly believe that it’s my responsibility as a member of this marginalized community to do what I can to support and highlight queer artists creating original content. I say it’s what I want: more stories written by queer women about queer women. ClexaCon is a safe space where I can throw money at artists for making beautiful things and offer what little publicity I can. Because if we’re going to change the media industry and society to make it safer for people like us, we all have to get there together.

And that’s what I love so much about ClexaCon. Because when I’m there, I can see how it’s possible. I see queer actors being celebrated and queer characters being cheered for and fawned over. I see queer art and queer books and queer artists and writers making these beautiful things for us to enjoy. And I think about how important it is for everyone who is there that this space exists.

ClexaCon isn’t just for me. It’s for every queer actor who has never gotten the chance to be in the spotlight or celebrated for who they are. It’s for the actors playing queer characters to experience how powerful and necessary their allyship is first hand. It’s for queer content creators and storytellers to gain recognition and support for the hard work they do making art for us. It’s for all the panelists who spent time and energy preparing to talk about significant issues. It’s for the volunteers and staff to see their hard work come to fruition and for the fans and attendees to revel in the safety and joy of being in a room full of like-minded people.

And it’s for all the other queer women who can’t be there, too. Who might not be out or safe enough or able to afford to go. We celebrate with them in spirit and hold them in our hearts.

ClexaCon is, quite simply, a place for all queer women to shine and for all of us to be stronger together.

Also a fun place to do queer cosplay like Rey/Leia/Holdo from The Last Jedi. (Thanks Alice and Beth!)


Featured Image Courtesy of ClexaCon

Bi, she/her. Gretchen is a Managing Editor for the Fandomentals. An unabashed nerdy fangirl and aspiring sci/fi and fantasy author, she has opinions about things like media, representation, and ethics in storytelling.

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A Cup Of Fantasy: Dryad Tea Pairs Perfectly With The Tabletop

Dan

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It’s officially September, and it will soon be fall. The air grows cold, the skies turn slate grey, and the mind wanders in search of the comfort it can only find inside a mug of fresh brewed tea. Now, of course, you can go to Starbucks for whatever they’re passing off as tea right now, and you could also get some Tetley or Celestial Seasonings down at the supermarket. But what if you want to move beyond the mundane, to try something new and different? Maybe you want a tea that doesn’t just taste good, but pairs with your favorite book? Maybe you want a mug of something named “Raspberry Imp,” “Loki’s Kiss, or even “Wibblycog?”

Owner and operator Rubiee as well as one of her “tea minions.”

Nestled in the back of the hall between the Artist’s Alley and a steampunk hat shop, Dryad Tea’s booth was almost always busy, mostly because they offered something different from the t-shirts, props, and expensive costuming at other booths. I got to have a chat with the owner, operator, master blender, and self described “Tea Maven” of Dryad, Rubiee Tallyn Hayes, who gave me a rundown of their products and a little backstory on Dryad.

The brand originally started while Rubiee was in the “dark faerie Celtic vocal band” Pandora Celtica, singing about the dark sides of the fae world. In order to support the band, each member picked up a side gig. For Rubiee, that was her tea blending and pottery. The initial blends Dryad carried, still in their catalogue today, were directly inspired by the characters and world Pandora Celtica constructed in their music. When the band went into semi-retirement, Dryad Tea lived on thanks to an overwhelming amount of support and a successful Kickstarter. Since then, she’s expanded her blends to reflect her love for mythology, literature, and general geekiness.

Dryad Teas is a full service tea company, in that they do not carry only one specific kind of tea. They’ve got your usual assortments of blacks and greens, herbals and rooibos, and even single-note teas for purists or home blenders. Dryad works to make sure their tea is ethically sourced, and tries to make their blends as organic as possible (some ingredients can’t be bought organically). Evil tea displeases the spirits, after all.

“Winter’s Court” is a chai blend of black tea, peppercorns, cinnamon, rose, and ginger that is only available after the Fall Equinox.

While the general grouping of Rubiee’s teas are recognizable, her blends are wholly unique. When making her blends, she tries to construct a tea that plays off of more than one sense. While the obviously taste delicious, they also smell just as good, with some blends like “Seelie” (a floral rooibos) being as much potpourii as tea blend. They played on this beautifully at GenCon, with samples of seventy-five teas out for free smells. You don’t even need to go full wino with it either. One sniff and you can immediately get an idea of what the tea will taste like. I bought a pack of Early Grey blends that, in theory, would not end up being a diverse profile but in actuality smell and taste totally different from each other while retaining that core Earl Grey flavor (even the green tea blend!).

The themes for the tea also play into things, with a great deal of her recent blends coming out of discussions with creators in the fantasy community. Some of the people she’s spoken with and inspired blends include authors like Seanen McGuire, Jim Butcher, Paul Lell, and Catherynne Valente, as well as the music of SJ Tucker and Bekah Kelso. She also draws less direct inspiration from things like Warhammer 40k, Alice In Wonderland (every tea shop has to have at least one Alice blend), Shakespeare, and even Pokemon Go! (the Mystic, Instinct, and Valor teas were a recent passion project for Rubiee). They also debuted brand new premium teas at GenCon, a special white and a Jasmine Dragon Pearl green, that are more expensive thanks to production costs but also offer unique and truly exquisite tastes.

Seamlessly integrate tea into your RPG games with a dice tea infuser.

Teas are available in sizes ranging from the three cup sample size all the way up to the 100+ cup eight ounce size. You can also get tea in travel tins and as part of gift packs, or even in the monstrous “Battle Box,” a “one of everything button” for Dryad’s teas that contains a sample of every single one of their teas. You can also get a randomized mix of teas, custom blends, a “grab bag,” and even the “Mad Tea Party,” a tea blend composed of all the other teas mixed together.

Like any good tea shop, Rubiee doesn’t just stock the tea itself. She also carries a full range of accessories for your tea drinking life, and even makes the vast majority of them! At GenCon, everything they had was made by Rubiee, except for the honey sticks she carries. That is reflected in their stock, which features handmade special dice infusers, ceramic tea pets and trivets (things that hold your used tea bag or infuser), and special crystal infusers. They also carry sweeteners like the honey sticks, silicon tea infusers, and timers. She’s even got a special herbal blend called “Vampire’s Bane,” a mix of herbs and garlic that is less of a tea and more of a marinade.

The mighty 22oz Octomugs, a uniquely Rubiee creation, were a hot seller at GenCon

Rubiee also is a hard working potter, working with her apprentice to produce mugs and bowls for purchase along with her tea. The two of them have different styles of pottery, meaning that there’s a fair amount of diversity even within a two-woman operation. While her stock of mugs is currently still replenishing after GenCon, you can still see what else she has in stock and even put in special requests.

For details on Dryad’s full range of teas, and to get some for your very own (at pretty damn reasonable prices for hand blended tea), you can visit their website, as well as the Etsy shops for both tea and pottery. If you’d like to support Dryad on a longer term basis, you can sign up for their Tea of the Month Club to have samples sent to you each month, or become a Patron and get access to samples, tokens, and even Dryad’s discord channel. You can also follow Rubiee on Twitch, where she streams her pottery throwing and tea blending. You can even see her in person at Wisconsin’s Teslacon or on their home turf at Denver’s MileHiCon, where they’ll be slinging tea and tea accessories.

(Editorial Note: We’ve corrected some things after talking with Rubiee. We mistakenly called the Jasmine Dragon Pearl’ tea a Darjeeling, referred to all of their tea as organic (which is impossible due to sourcing limitations), and referred to Rubiee as the sole potter when she in fact has an apprentice) 


Images Courtesy of Dryad Tea

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Gencon Report: 7 Things Gaymers Want Game Developers To Know

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Tabletop Gaymers has been a mainstay of the tabletop gaming circuit since its formation in 2013, working to facilitate awareness, connections, and safe spaces for gamers across the LGBT spectrum.  As the biggest tabletop game in the world, their presence has been strong at GenCon since they were just a Yahoo group. Their “Queer As A Three Sided Die” is the longest running queer panel at GenCon, running since 2011, and often acts as a communal place for the queer gamers and developers to kvetch and critique an industry that was and remains dominated by straight, cis, men, (though us white gamers don’t get away scot free either).

 

I attended this year’s iteration on Thursday. Moderated by Tanya DePass (@cypheroftyr), founder and director of I Need Diverse Games), the panel also featured writer and game developer Crystal Frasier (@AmazonChique), Roll20 Production Coordinator Trivia Fox (@dark_deer_), and writer and culture critic Anna Kreider (@wundergeek). It was a Redditor’s worst nightmare: 2 enbies with bright colored hair and completely different presentations, a bi black woman, and a trans woman with her hair in bisexual colors wearing a The Last Jedi shirt; all walking into a room to talk about how they want to make gaming more diverse. It was glorious. You’ll be able to watch a full recording after the show, but below are some of the biggest takeaways from the 2018 iteration of “Queer As A Three Sided Die.”

1. Don’t Forget About The Queer POC’s

Tanya was not fucking around at this panel when it came to intersectionality. Almost immediately, she was willing to point out the rather monochromatic makeup of the room and the still underrepresented POC’s and especially Queer POC’s in gaming. While the focus of the panel was the LGBTQ community in general, ideas like fetishization of black men and women, servant POC tropes, and the general absence of POC game developers and writers at GenCon all  were bubbling under the surface of discussion. Its clear that there could be three other panels on this topic that Tanya could host, so be sure to check out her work at INDG. But as it stands, it helped ground the conversation and kept the discussions from turning into an exercise in “oppression Olympics.”

2. You Have To Listen To Sensitivity Readers, Not Just Use Them As PR

Crystal, Anna, and Tanya all are veteran sensitivity readers, and they were passionate about the importance of a sensitivity reader for game companies and writers. These readers are given preliminary drafts of games or books to critique the author’s use of characters or plot points within the reader’s  expertise. In a games environment trying to cater to LGBT gamers without hiring them (more on that later), it’s vital for devs to not just take advantage of sensitivity readers but to LISTEN TO THEM. It doesn’t matter if you show your accidentally transphobic or racist character to Crystal or Tanya, you’re doing nothing if you then ignore them. You also shouldn’t listen to a “sensitivity reader” if they don’t really fit the “sensitivity” they’re critiquing. Don’t send your nonbinary characters to, say, me for instance. I don’t really have the experience to speak to that (no matter how much white dude confidence I have). Instead, send them to Anna. Just please, PLEASE pay your consultants.

3. Humanize Your Trans Characters (And Don’t Fetishize Them)

Luckily, the culture has shifted to a point where the vast majority of writers have at least some awareness on how not to write trans characters (though there is a nagging trope that being trans is a symptom of demonic curses). But in many creators’ rush to present their characters in a positive light, they go all the way around the bend int over idealising them. The more benign manifestation of this is in trans characters who act as purely good, brave heroes who have no real personality beyond their identity (Crystal recounted how happy she was to finally get to write an trans character who was an ass hole in a recent Pathfinder adventure). But it also manifests in a grosser way, one that the panelists agreed is possibly worse than outright homophobia: fetishization. Never give your characters magic genitals, try to move them away from being “promiscuous,” and never make them some weird ethereal beauty due solely to their identity (but you can make them ethereally beautiful).

4. You Do Know Non-Binary People Exist, Right?

Gender isn’t a binary, my dudes. In real life, the community is beginning to understand that some people do not fit into the male or female label. But if the games industry has been slow to represent transgender characters, it has been absolutely glacial at representing their non-binary player base. When they do show up, they usually are shoved onto rock monsters, alien creatures, and the like. A non-binary player shouldn’t have to play a sentient ball of mud to come close to their existence outside of the gender binary. Get on it, people.

5. Don’t Keep Waving Magic Wands Over Your Trans Characters

An incredibly common trope in fantasy and science fiction, when handling trans characters, is to give them some sort of instantaneous magical gender switch. A belt that lets a trans man impregnate his partner, a ring that lets a trans woman fit the clothes she wants, etc. While the panel acknowledged the pure escapism of these story elements, they also discussed diversifying how creators represent the trans experience in their work. An example given was an alchemical solution that would, over time, allow a character to fully transition into their preferred gender. The important thing is to allow the experience to become more diverse and therefore more representative. We’ve had every kind of cis person in games, why not spread that diversity?

6. The Con Audience Is Not Your Whole Audience

At these panels, there’s sometimes a topic that makes even the attendees feel a wave of discomfort. That came near the middle of the panel, when the idea of privilege came up. It’s easy to pat ourselves on the back at the panel or at the con and say “we did it.” We came to this panel and we’ll solve the problems. But for every one person at GenCon, there’s hundreds of gamers who can’t afford to attend. But they still buy and play the games sold and discussed there and would like a say in how they’re represented. We as con attendees shouldn’t get to big in our breeches when it comes to our say in game development. If we’re lucky enough to be at a con, we should make sure we try to listen to our fellow gamers so that when we meet the people making our favorite games, we can advocate as unselfishly as possible.   It’s important for the people making the games, from the big boys on top to the little fish just finding their places, to take into account what the players they don’t meet might be sensitive to as well. There is, though, an even better way to improve representation in games…

7. HIRE US

Throughout the course of the panel, the panelists referred frequently to the “same ten brown haired, blue eyed white dudes” being hired over and over to make games, even as companies pay lip service to increased representation. But if they really want experts on writing the LGBTQ experience or the black experience or the Asian experience…fucking HIRE them. Not just as sensitivity readers, not just as reviewers. Bring them in as writers, as designers, as artists. Let them catch your bullshit before it even gets out of the writer’s room. Let them pitch you their non-binary heroes, their big buff orc femmes, their rail-thin elf butches, their gay clerics, their black princesses.

If you don’t want to be left behind, let us work for you. Cause we don’t really need you. Queer people have a knack for telling our stories, always have and always will. We’ll tell our stories wherever we can and however we can.  We’re not going to stop.

Be sure to check out Anna Kreider’s Patreon as well as her blog Go Make Me A Sandwich (particularly her takedown of D&D 5e’s horrifying handling of Curse of Strahd), Crystal Frasier’s website, Tanya at I Need Diverse Games, and Trivia’s Tumblr as well as their work at Roll20. And stay tuned for the full video of the panel, with a special cameo by yours truly.

Editor’s Note: We incorrectly used a pronoun in the above article. This has been corrected and we regret the error.

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Fandomentals At Gencon 2018: Our Most Anticipated Board Games

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For the first time ever, The Fandomentals is going to GenCon! Running from August 2nd through August 5th, GenCon is the single biggest gaming convention in the world. For the second year in a row, the convention announced in a press release that they’ve sold out of four day passes days before the convention even begins! And it’s no wonder they’ve sold out. With over 200 new board games alone debuting at the con, there’s a lot to see, do, and play. Here are the 10 games we’re most excited to try at Gencon 2018.

1. Samurai Jack: Back to the Past

Publisher: USAopoly

From the developers of The Thing: Infection At Outpost 31 and Harry Potter: Hogwarts Battle, Samurai Jack: Back to the Past is a co-op card drafting game based on the fifth season of the hit animated show from Cartoon Network. Players take the role of Jack and his friends as they travel from place to place to gather honor and defeat the evil that is Aku.

Why We’re Excited:  It truly seems like a love letter to the iconic series. Project Raygun has brought their legendary craftsmanship to the table with loving vinyl figures of Jack, Aku, Ahi, The Scotsman, Monkey Man, Sir Rothchild, and Max as well as vivid cards that use art from the show itself.

2.  Red Dragon Inn 7: The Tavern Crew

 

Publisher: Slugfest Games

Since its debut in 2007, Red Dragon Inn has become a monster among the tabletop gaming crowd. The game has won over the hearts of gamers thanks to its gentle skewering of fantasy tropes, beautiful art, and unique and varied gameplay. One of the most re-playable party games ever, the games have featured killer rabbits, blind navigators, and bomb throwing goblins. But finally, in its seventh expansion, we’ll get to finally play as the long-suffering staff of the eponymous inn. From the jovial owner Warthorn Redbeard to the woman known only as “the Wench,” the staff finally gets a chance to put their feet up and enjoy a mug of ale like anyone else. The new expansion isn’t the only addition to Red Dragon Inn, either.

Slugfest and Steve Jackson Games have joined their mighty powers to bring Spyke and Flower from Munchkin into the Red Dragon Inn. The two can dual each other to prove who’s more min-maxed, or join in the fun of the main games in Red Dragon Inn’s first ever standalone Ally pack.

Why We’re Excited: The Red Dragon Inn is genuinely one of the best-designed games series out there.  The art is lively, the writing is clever, and it’s just fun as hell to play. Plus it has the added option of play with real alcohol, which needs to become more of a trend.

3. Legends of Sleepy Hollow

Publisher: Greater Than Games

Set three days after the Washington Irving tale, Legends of Sleepy Hollow places players right in the middle of Tarrytown circa 1790. They can become one of four townsfolk as the search for the disappeared Ichabod Crane begins. Much more story driven than most other board games, Legends takes place across 8 chapters and features secrets, twists, and even combat with attacks unique to each character. Players will balance their action pool with their characters fear levels ad they delve into the real story behind Sleepy Hollow.

Why We’re Excited: For one thing, the art is gorgeous. Abigail Larson was clearly drawing on her love of Tim Burton when she brought the game to life, and it evokes not just Nightmare Before Christmas and Beetlejuice, but also the more recent autumnal classic Over the Garden Wall. It also seems to really aim to use board games as a method of storytelling, rather than just being an excuse for strategy or competition. As immersion in video gaming reaches new heights, its no wonder that board games are getting in on it too. We’ll for sure checking this one out.

4.Blood on the Clock Tower

Publisher: The Pandemonium Institute

Its rare for a brand new studio to come out swinging this hard with their first release. Blood On The Clocktower is a deduction based game where two teams, Good and Evil, square off to either destroy the town or banish the demon forever. Similar in play style to Ultimate Werewolf and Town of Salem, each player takes on a role acting to help or hinder the spread of evil. Unlike those games, the game doesn’t end when you die. Rather, players become ghosts who can affect the game from beyond the grave.

Why We’re Excited: We love new developers. The old blood comes out with new games all the time, but the tabletop world can sometimes seem stale once you get below a certain age of publisher. But Pandemonium is bringing some real excitement to their first GenCon with a game that puts a unique spin on the extremely popular deduction genre. The addition of storyteller promises to take the lies and scheming to another level and helps add to the creativity as well.  If it’s not on your pre-order lists yet, I’d get on it.

5. Crusader Kings: The Board Game

Published By: Paradox Interactive/Free League Publishing

DEUS VULT, my brothers and sisters! Yes, the deep and sometimes incredibly confusing world of Paradox grand strategy is moving off of computer screens and onto a game board! This is Paradox’s first foray into tabletop gaming, and they’re swinging for the fences. The new game sticks closely to its digital counterparts, with each character controlling a dynasty that spans decades. Players will juggle intrigue, war, and horse popes as they fight to dominate the anarchy of Medieval Europe. Or, at least, get a genius heir no matter how many wives they have to kill. This isn’t Paradox’s only GenCon release, as they’ll also be demoing the tabletop adaptation of Europa Universalis as well.

Why We’re Excited: Paradox Games have a steep learning curve, but they aren’t time sinks just because. There’s an insane amount of depth and craftsmanship to their games, and they’ve brought all of that to bear in their first tabletop game. The art is crisp, the colors pop, and they did a fantastic job recreating the look and feel of the original game. While there’s no word if Glitterhoof, everyone’s favorite chancellor, will appear, we’ve got our fingers crossed.

6. Masque of the Red Death

Publisher: IDW

IDW is on a damn roll this year. Not only has their Legend of Korra: Pro-Bending Arena become a bestseller and a beloved part of the fandom, but they’re bringing a slew of games based on amazing properties to GenCon. But while we love Batman and the Ninja Turtles, its Masque of the Red Death, possibly the most goth board game ever made, that caught our eye. Based on Edgar Allen Poe’s short story, the players must balance their party duties with the encroaching plague. Drink, gossip, and carouse as all the while the Red Death encroaches on your lives. The most popular noble wins…IF they survive.

Why We’re Excited: Look at it! It’s beautiful! Filled with the unique art of Gris Grimley, IDW makes this game pop with lots of 3D standees and items. Plus the balance of doom and partying is always fun, reminding us of the Winter Palace in Dragon Age: Inquisition. Whether you’re a Poe fan, a board game fan, or just terminally goth, this game is a must-play.

7.Sovereign Skies

Publisher: Deepwater Games

Deepwater has one of the most varied inventories at GenCon. Dedicated to creative and well-designed games, they’ve taken on a real challenge this year. Sovereign Skies is an epic strategy game where factions vie for resources and galactic dominance. Seems like one of those “all night” games, right? Not really. Designer Aaron Andrew Wilson has worked to condense strategic space opera to a playtime of only 45 minutes! Players will occupy colonies and recruit politicians as they battle it out on the edge of space.

Deepwater is also debuting the 50’s tinged city planning game Welcome To at this year’s GenCon as well.

Why We’re Excited: Games that play under an hour rarely tackle a subject as epic as the Space Opera. Being able to do all the best parts of a strategy game without spending three house haggling over wheat is incredibly attractive. Plus the art is stunning, nothing new for the very aesthetic-minded Deepwater.

8. Raccoon Tycoon

Publisher: Forbidden Games

At first blush, Raccoon Tycoon looks like a well-constructed resource management economy game. Players each control a commodity and must corner the market by building buildings and collecting railroads until you become the top dog.

For some people, that might send them straight to sleep.

But then you hear the perfect pun and see the art (which is beautifully done by Annie Stegg Gerard). It’s RACCOONS! AND FOXES! Dressed in little coats and vests! Woodland critters doing ruthless land deals! It’s like if Ticket To Ride were cute…and fun.

Why We’re Excited: IT’S WOODLAND CRITTERS IN TINY NINETEENTH CENTURY ATTIRE DOING BUSINESS DEALS! LOOK AT HIS LITTLE HAT! LOOK AT HIS LITTLE TIE! I BET HE TALKS LIKE PATRICK STEWART!

9. Gorilla Marketing

Publisher: Roxley Games

I think something is in the water these game devs are drinking. But it’s good. Because Roxley decided to take the perfectly functional “random party game” idea and make it better. How you ask? The same way DC wrote Batman in the Silver Age: add Gorillas. The game takes place across two rounds. In the first, the players name the thing that they will advertise, whether it be college courses, bands, food trucks etc. In the second, the players then must come up with a tagline for that product. The winner isn’t just who’s funniest, but who meets the criteria of the judge’s card.

Why We’re Excited: See: Raccoon Tycoon, but with gorillas.

10. Evil High Priest

Publisher: Petersen Games

This one has been on our radar for a while. The “dark cult” genre is a staple of tabletop gaming, and Evil High Priest is a welcome addition to the genre. Rather than warring cults and warring monsters, the players of Evil High Priest are all in the same cult, worshiping the same unknowable eldritch being. But there can be only one high priest. Players must gather cultists, perform dark rituals, and terrorize the local townsfolk in the name of their dark master, all while dodging the pesky investigators. The winner is the player who has the most power and treasure when the final seal breaks and doom comes to the world.

Why We’re Excited: Cult games are just fun as hell. There’s something about millennials that just attracts us to the weird and dark. And in today’s political climate,  summoning the Great Black Goat Shub-Niggurath doesn’t seem like a half bad idea. Petersen is a company that strives to create high-end games, and it shows in the rich details and unique art that fills Evil High Priest to the brim.

 

So that’s our list! See anything you like? What games are you excited about this year?


Images via Gencon LLC and the respective publishers

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