Friday, September 29, 2023

Gen Con Report: Five Faves From the Floor

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In my last big report from GenCon, I wanted to spotlight some of the games I got to look at while out on the floor of the vendor hall, the ones that might have jumped out and that anyone attending could see. Obviously there were A LOT of amazing games to be seen at the convention, and I had fun learning about all of them, but these are the ones I liked the most.

Cosmic Frog

Publisher:Devious Weasel Games

Cosmic Frog box and contents

One of the most bonkers games I’ve seen at any GenCon, Cosmic Frog is a psychelic ball of sci-fi nonsense and I love it. You play as two-mile high, indestrucible frogs gobbling up pieces of the world into your gullets for storage. While there’s a deep strategy to the game as you try to maximize the score based on what you collect while also trying to steal from other frogs (and stop yourself from getting robbed), there’s an element of high chaos to the game thanks to a random turn order and an ending that can basically come at any time. Thanks to an arresting visual aesthetic and unique feel (plus some big ol’ frog minis), it’s no wonder this one sold out before the convention had even ended.

Cosmic Frog mini
Boing and ribbit

Mythic Mischief

Publisher: IV Studio

Mythic Mischief box and contents

IV Games (Moonrakers) had one of the more interesting booths in the vendor hall thanks to nice little “academic” touches like leather sofas, wooden tables, old books, and the odd potion thrown here and there. This was all to underscore Mythic Mischief, their new game of asymmetric strategy where you play as students at a magic school trying to get as many of your rivals captured by the Tomekeeper (the school librarian) as you can. There’s seven base factions with their own abilities, strenghts, and weaknesses, as well as a slick visual design to help them stand out. While it was on crowdfunding at GenCon, it has since funded and now is aimed at a 2022 release. Definitely one to keep an eye on, especially if you’re a fan of Vast.

Witches, Wizards, and the Tome Keeper occupying the library.

Winterhaven Woods

Publisher: Featherstone Games

Winterhaven Woods

Not every game is a big production. Sometimes they’re quiet, understated affairs with pleasant art and easy mechanics. Such is the case of Winterhaven Woods, the second game from Minneapolis game studio Featherstone Games. Originally designed by Joel Bodkin to teach his son drafting for Magic the Gathering, it morphed into its own game. It’s a fairly straightforward game about the ecosystem of the forest, gaining points by drafting animals into your field or using predators to take out your opponents critters. You can even use some unique animals to outright steal animals! The art is incredibly charming and it’s a nice, cozy game for kids or adults as we head into the winter months.

Titania Ascending

Publisher: XYZ Game Labs

Titania Ascending box and cards

Arch Ravels might have been the big NEW release for XYZ Game Labs, but their next release looks to be something truly special. Roll-and-writes (and their cousin the flip-and-write) have become a big hit in the hobby, with almost every company trying their hand at the format. This is XYZ’s entry, a co-op flip-and-write where players work together to draw out the necessary shapes and gather the resources need to aid Queen Titania in her conquest of the earth (it’s ok, she’s just tired of us messing up the environment). There’s a lot of replayability in both the co-op mode and the competitive mode, and like any flip-and-write there’s no real limit to how many players can participate. The look of the game also makes it stand out, a mix of whimsical fantasia and steampunk tech.

Rat Queens

Publisher: Deep Water Games

Rat Queens board and minis

Ok I’m cheating a little here because this wasn’t a super open demo game, but it was on the floor and dang it, I like it! An adaptation of the comic series about a band of kickass women in a D&D-esque setting, the game has all the flavor and fun you’d expect from the source material. The main chunk of of the game is in co-op fights, first through minions and then eventually in boss fights. But there’s also a roleplay element to the game as well, since relationships between the titular queens is important to success in the fights. This was another Kickstarter success, and Deepwater is hoping to get the game on shelves within the next year or so.

Fire Tower

Publisher: Runaway Parade Games

Fire Tower board

I didn’t buy too many games at GenCon, but this is one that impressed me so much that I just couldn’t avoid it. While at first blush it looks like another educational nature game about preventing fires, it’s actually a fast-paced and cut-throat game about using fire to burn your opponents to the ground. With nothing but a wind direction and a few tricksy tools (including fire hawks to transport burning branches elsewhere), you’ll race across the board while trying to keep the flames from licking at your own tower. But if you do get burned, you can live on as a spirit and get vengeance to the forest. Deep and ever shifting strategy and a great old-school art style meant this was a big hit at GenCon, with the little booth always overflowing with customers and demos.

Images via their respective owners

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  • Dan Arndt

    Fiction writer, board game fanatic, DM. Has an MFA and isn't quite sure what to do now. If you have a dog, I'd very much like to pet it. Operating out of Indianapolis.

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