My Haul at Gen Con

Gen Con was fun again this year! My bro and I walked for miles searching for both new and classic games. What did we find….inquiring minds want to know! Well my faithful friends, read on, read on for the answer!

— day one loot!

In the photo above you can see what I found on day one!

Smash Up! Oops, You Did It Again — I found this new expansion that I was looking for. Can’t wait to get in some Smash Up Games with these four new factions.

Scythe: Rise of Fenris — Is this expansion a set of alternate game rules (i.e. modules), a legacy campaign, or both!

Too Many Bones: Undertow — I kickstarted this game. It looks like a really fun dice builder. The components inside are top-quality. And many thanks to the guys at the booth who switched out the duplicate dice for the omitted dice that were missing from my box.

Horizons — A 4x space game. I love these sort of games (e.g. Eclipse, Ascending Empires, Eminent Domain)!

Unlock! — My wife loves these puzzle/escape room games, so I was happy to pick up a few more adventures.

Call of Cthulhu: Nameless Horrors — Six new adventures for CoC RPG, and it was only $15! Let the sanity checks begin!

Eminent Domain: Oblivion — Yes, yes, and more yes! Finally that Politics card gets to be a role! I am super-pumped to integrate this expansion into one of my favorite games.

King of New York: Anubis Monster Pack — A new monster and it even has a Pyramid die!

Day Two was more about taking in the convention than grabbing Games, but still we found a couple things.

— day two loot

Near and Far — This game looks cool…and I got the next to last copy at the booth too! Is it a legacy game, a worker placement game in the vein of Raiders of the North Sea, or an RPG disguised as a board game? Is it all three? Did I mention that the maps are in a spiral-ring notebook? The art is great too!

Cat Lady — Saw this at the AEG booth and I had to buy it for my wife. She loves cats.

Star Realms Promos — Yep, picked up some free promos. You want to know why? Well I’m not telling you…at least not tell my next post!

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Why Visiting Your Local Game Store is Good — Dice Throne and King of New York/King of Tokyo: King Kong

I am a big fan of buying games from internet sites. I can buy directly from the publisher, I can get a good price from an online retailer like Amazon, I can window shop multiple sites, etc. However, the biggest disadvantage of online shopping is that it is surprisingly easy to miss things. Amazon doesn’t have everything and search results can be more limited than it might appear.

That’s why I love going to my local game store every week to just see what might be there. For those with more inquiring minds, the closet local store to me is The Toledo Game Room. Those of you who go to GenCon might recognize the owner of the Game Room, Daryl, as “The Bits Guy” who sells all the Warhammer bits. Another good store in town is Checkmate Games. If you are in Fresno, Ca, I recommend Crazy Squirrel Game Store.

Anyway, going to the local game store turned up two games/game expansions this week.

First, I found a game that I knew nothing about: Dice Throne

I have only started reading the rules, but Dice Throne looks like a fun game where you can play 1v1, 2v2, 3v3, or free-for-all. I can’t wait to try it out with my usual suspects.

Second, sometimes I find something new for a game that I like. This time it was King Kong for King of Tokyo/King of New York.

I loved the Cthulhu expansion and I am super-pumped to bust out King Kong in my next King of New York game.

The moral of the story

So run, don’t walk, to your local game store to find unexpected gems. And do it like voting in Chicago–early and often!

Excelsior!

5 Reasons You Should be Playing King of New York (with the monster evolution rules)

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If you haven’t yet given King of New York by Iello games a try, here are 5 reasons why you should:

1 – You Are a Mega Monster that Stomps on New York

Okay, this is a really big (pun intended) plus for this game!  Each player is a gigantic monster (e.g. a giant robot, a giant ape, a giant dinosaur, etc.) and you get to smash buildings and destroy military units in the boroughs of New York!  What could be more fun?  Nothing!  You get a cardboard standee that emphasizes how massive you are and how small and puny the poor earthlings are!

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Cthulhu in Queens, The Sheriff (the dinosaur) in Lower Manhattan, and Kong in Staten Island rampage through the boroughs of New York!  By the way, note the Cthulhu cultist temples in a number of boroughs.  Whaaaat….did I say Cthulhu?  More on that later.

2 – If you know how to play Yahtzee, you basically can play King of New York

To control what your monster does, you roll 6 dice.  Maybe you want to destroy buildings; maybe you want to regain health; maybe you want to slap the monster currently in Manhattan; whatever it is you are looking to do…all you got to do is roll the right symbols!

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The dice.  Each symbol does something different.  From top left clockwise: gain fame, slap another monster, gain energy, gain health, make units attack the monsters, and destroy buildings/units.

If you don’t get what you want on the first roll, you can re-roll any number of dice while holding the others.  Still don’t have what you want?  You get a second re-roll!  Sound like Yahtzee?  Yep, it is.  A good number of games these days have taken this basic idea and added other mechanics to it to make a quality board game.  While King of New York has power cards, energy cubes, and other rules, if you know the basic math needed in Yahtzee to decide when to re-roll versus when to keep a die’s result, you can play King of New York.

3 – It’s King of the Hill — and everyone knows how to play that game

And of course, King of New York is really “King of the Hill” where Manhattan is the “hill.”  If you can get your monster to Manhattan, you’ll get some bonus fame and energy each turn.  Stay there long enough and you are well on your way to winning.  Whoever is on the mountain can be slapped by all the other monsters…but from Manhattan you can slap your opponents all at the same time!  Yee-hah!  The strategy is simple: get to the Hill…er, Manhattan…and hold it!  If you aren’t in Manhattan, slap the monster that is until it falls off the hill!  C’mon, everybody knows how to do this!

4 – With the Power Up! expansion, each monster evolves with different powers

One problem that the original King of New York suffered from was that all the monsters were the same.  They had different standees and different cards to record fame and health…but aside from chrome they were the same thing.  It didn’t really matter which monster you were–all of them played the same.

Thus, everyone basically pursued the same set of strategies regardless of which standee they were playing.  It seemed to be silly to be Kong or the Sheriff or Captain Fish or whatever when really you were all the same generic monster.

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The Power Up! expansion that introduces monster evolution cards

The Power Up! expansion changed all that!  Each monster now has a unique set of 8 evolution cards.  Each monster starts the game with 1 evolution card and over the course of the game they can try to get more (by rolling triple hearts).  Some evolution cards are one-shot (called “temporary” in the game) and have an immediate effect and then are discarded.  The other evolution cards stay in play (called “permanent” in the game.”  This mechanic is similar to the basic power cards that say “keep” or “discard”.

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The Sheriff with two of his permanent evolution cards: Long Star Lizard and The Short Arm of the Law

Because each monster has a unique set of cards, each monster is now UNIQUE.  If you play Mega-shark you are likely to get an evolution that makes winning the game via fame impossible–but helps you slap down the other monsters to win by being the last monster standing.  Captain Fish has an annoying way of moving monsters around.  The Sheriff tends to inflict damage on monsters near him.  Now your choice of monster makes a big difference as to what strategy you will play…and what you might have to do to stop another player’s strategy.

5 – Games are relatively quick and full of fun

King of New York is lighthearted!  Games last about 30-60 minutes and generally are silly and fun.  You smash buildings, slap other monsters, and fight to get and stay in Manhattan.  Even if you lose, you will have a good time in this free-for-all.

6 – (yes, there is a #6 in the 5 reasons why!) Cthulhu!

And now Iello Games has introduced individual monster packs that you can purchase.  And which monster was first?  Of course, it is the obligatory Cthulhu expansion!  Now you can play the antediluvian Cthulhu and smash your way through New York!

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Cthulhu and a few of his evolution cards…in all their terrible, monstrous, insane, glory!  Note the rather insane combo of cards above to gain fame quickly as Cthulhu.  This is a real picture of one person’s hand in a game a few days ago…and yes, he won with it.

The Cthulhu pack introduces cultist temples that shuffle in with the buildings.  Cthulhu can even use “Shrieking Madness” to give Madness tokens to other players.  What do they do you ask?  Well, for each Madness token you have, you roll a die and place it on the token.  That die cannot be re-rolled!  Yikes!  That truly is madness!  Oh, and Cthulhu can use Sunken R’Lyeh to gain fame each turn in any borough with a cultist temple.  If you are one of the other monsters, you better smash these temples as soon as you see them before Cthulhu racks up the fame!

For all these reasons you should be playing King of New York!

Til’ next time, Make Mine Marvel!  Wait…that kind of didn’t fit..oh well, who cares, it just sounds cool!

 

The Big Book of Madness: A Post-Gen Con Review after Two Games

The Big Book of Madness by Iello Games (BBoM) was released last December.  My brother and I got a chance to check it out at Gen Con 2016 (check out some photos Here and Here) and we purchased it.  We really enjoy cooperative games such as Pandemic and Ghost Stories, so we figured BBoM would be a nice addition.

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The Big Book of Madness

Initial Impression?  Visually Stunning and Great Theme!

One of the negatives that I got from walking about the Indy Convention Center at Gen Con 2016 was that many game companies are rushing games to market.  Without naming names, I saw a plethora of games with bad art, cheap/sub-standard components (can you say it looked like crayon on a cereal box interior?) and poor execution.  The Big Book of Madness is exactly the opposite of all that!

The art is visually stunning and evocative of the theme: students of a magic academy open a Big Book of Madness and now have to try and contain the monsters jumping forth from its pages.  The character choices (there are 8, 2 in each of the 4 colors/elements of magic) are all distinct in presentation and have different rules mechanics.

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4 of the 8 characters.  Sorry about that light source on the Green card, my bad!

Other game components are also of high quality.  The board is sturdy and supports the theme. On the board, he BBoM rests in the middle, the madness emanates from the hole on the right, and the scroll on the left keeps track of the rounds and curses.  On the scroll, the arabic numerals are rounds, the roman numerals are the 3 levels of difficulty, and the brown cards are extra curses to add each round.  Spaces for the curses are at the bottom and the large numbers are for the individual turns within a round. A book token moves along those big numbers counter-clockwise from 1 to 5 and back again.

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The Board

One of the best thematic components, and also a great source of evocative art, is the Big Book of Madness itself.  The book has a cover that is opened at the start of the game, revealing the first monster and its curses.  Each round the book is turned until it gets to the end.  Here is an example of what an open book looks like.  Looks like a real book, doesn’t it?  In reality it is a set of double-sided cards that are slowly flipped and moved from the left pile to the right.

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Example of an open book.  Pretty cool huh?

Game Play: Fun…and really, really tough!

To summarize the rules, each player manages a deck of element cards and a set of spells toward the goal of removing curses.  If the players remove all the curses on the board they defeat the current monster and get a bonus, otherwise they get a penalty.  If the players defeat the final monster they win, otherwise they lose.  Players get more and more element cards and also Madness cards as the game progresses, combining deck-building and resource management mechanics.  The game has a lot of opportunities for cooperation as players develop a common support pool of element cards and can actively give non-active players actions during any active player’s turn.

I found the level of both tension and difficulty within BBoM to be very similar to Ghost Stories (Ghost Stories at Asmodee).  We played both a 2-player and a 4-player game, and like most cooperative games, the more players involved, the harder the game felt.  We won the 2-p game but lost the 4-p game (pretty badly actually).  While bad luck certainly played a part in the 4-player loss, most of the game we felt like we were behind and struggling to catch up as the number of curses slowly increased each round. And we were playing on the lowest level (I) of difficulty!

As this is what makes BBoM very fun indeed!  Beating a cooperative game the first few times you play it should be tough.  The enjoyment comes from both trying to win and also learning how to win.  At one point in the 4-player game we were down and just about out.  On my turn I needed to draw a 3-point white card to defeat a curse that was going to finish us by draining the Madness deck.  What happened?  I drew the needed card and well…the crowd went wild!  We were hooting and hollering even though we knew that I had only temporarily delayed the inevitable defeat.  I learned a lot in my first two plays of BBoM and I anticipate that winning will be easier but probably not more likely than 50-50.

Verdict: A Very Good Game

What else can I say about BBoM?  The rules are well-written (and the rulebook is gorgeous too) and the game offers 1) enough strategy and complexity to keep avid boardgamers interested while 2) being simple enough for casual gamers to enjoy it.  Here is an example of what a game looks like in progress:

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The Big Book of Madness in progress.  Note the little Book marker on space #3.

If you like cooperative games, I highly recommend you run, don’t walk, to your nearest game store and buy The Big Book of Madness!

 

Gen Con Day One

My brother and I wandered the Exhibit Hall today and only made our way through just over half of it!  Tomorrow I will post some photos from the Exhibit Hall, but today I want to show you what we purchased so far.

Eminent Domain: Microcosm.  It’s a 2-player game set in the Eminent Domain universe and promises to last only 10 minutes.

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Two expansions for Smash Up: It’s Your Fault (fan requests) and Cease and Desist (Sci Fi/Fantasy that mimic Star Wars, GoT, etc).

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The Big Book of Madness.  A co-operative game for 2-5 players.

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Two copies of a Promo Card for Tanto Cuore.

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And the free annual Gen Con d6 from Crystal Castle.

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We have already played a couple games and I am going to write up some reviews once I get back home.

 

That’s it for now.  More good stuff from Gen Con 2016 tomorrow!