I visited GenCon last week, one of the largest gaming conventions in the U.S. 60,000+ people mobbed downtown Indianapolis for the four days of the event. All types of games were covered including boardgames, roleplaying games, and collectible card games. I have an entire series covering many games in detail over at OpinionatedGamers. I have a rundown of dice games, more complex games, family games, children’s games, and a mix of roleplaying and “everything else.”
However, to save everyone some time, I’ve dug out some of my favorite games of the convention so you don’t necessarily have to wade through all my reports (unless you want to see some of the variety at the convention.)
The idea of a deckbuilding game has been around for quite awhile, the idea of making a game solely about building a deck of powerful cards over the course of a single game. Designers have since “riffed” on that basic idea in many ways, and Hyperborea takes as its new twist the idea of bag-building. In Hyperborea, players place and remove colored cubes from their personal bag. The colors drawn dictate a player’s options for that turn. This new(ish) mechanism is used to good effect. Combined with unique player powers and multiple paths to victory, Hyperborea is a fun game that feels something mildly akin to Risk, but Risk where each player (and country) has special powers.
There seems to be an uptick in old-school computer RPGs lately, with Wasteland 2, Pillars of Eternity, and Torment: Tides of Numenera on the horizon. But it doesn’t get much more old-school than good old-fashioned paper and pencil role-playing. The classic Dungeons and Dragons had a recent “reset” with their 5th Edition rules, harkening back to older D&D versions with faster, looser play (less of a tactical boardgame feel.) The big launch last fall has simmered down and it’s time to take a look at the line to see how it’s matured. Both D&D and Pathfinder (the other big player on the market) continue to find ways to cater to less experienced players. We’ll start with new items from Pathfinder and D&D, and finish off with the newest D&D themed co-op boardgame, just released by Wizkids.
You can play RPGs on your computer, sitting alone in front of a screen, or you can play face to face RPGs assisted by your computer and enjoy all the fun of hanging with your friends for a casual evening of fun. Ever since computers went mainstream, gamers have tried to find ways to use their computers to make life easier for playing pencil and paper role playing games. We’ve come a long way my friend, and now there are options aplenty. While it seems there is not yet a global panacea for the problem, there are a few applications that can add to your next gaming session.
In Evolution, players shepherd their species through a progressively more competitive environment. Get your species to live long and prosper, measured by one’s food intake over the course of the game, and you win the game. Limited food, players creating carnivorous species, and subsequent adaptation to avoid them, creates a fun, fast playing game suitable for “serious” boardgamers as well as a family game night.
Designers: Dominic Crapuchettes, Dmitry Knorre, Sergey Machin
Publisher: North Star Games
Time: 60 mins
(Review copy provided by North Star Games)
When was the last time you saw an actual prize in a cereal box? I don’t think they really do that much anymore. I’ve seen some that give you codes to unlock things in online games and such, but no physical prizes. When I was a kid, cereal box prizes were everywhere. We’d get things like stickers, cars, those baking soda submarines, baseball cards, rings, flipbooks, candy that we could pack in our school lunch that day, and much more. One time in boxes of Chex, you could even get a computer game called Chex Quest (which I reviewed at The Dallas Morning News back then). Sometimes, as a kid, the prizes were more interesting than the cereal itself. So if I see a prize in a cereal box nowadays, I might notice it a bit more, especially if it’s Skylanders related. And since Skylanders is a big deal here at GamerDad.com, here’s a write-up about the new Skylanders Skystones prizes in certain boxes of General Mills cereals!
Dice Masters is a line of collectible games based on rolling dice to get monsters and then using those monsters to attack one’s opponent. Dice provide both “energy” (a form of currency) and monsters which (when paid for with energy) are sent out to battle one’s opponent. Perhaps more importantly, energy can be used to purchase additional dice (from a pool in the center of the board) to be used later in the game. The newest release (just arrived) is based around Dungeons and Dragons. Previous editions, based on Marvel superheros, sold out repeatedly so the game is quite popular. Dice rolling (and the randomness that implies) is often fun, but the game also provides options for strategic decisions preventing it from becoming too random. While random rolls of the dice can sway the game in favor of one player, there is some strategy in choosing which dice to bring to the table. The result is a nice mix of chance and challenge. It is only a two player game but is a great fit for parents with kids or even a game between “grownups.”
Poop: The Game is a simple to learn card game that has some similarities to other popular card titles like UNO. And believe it or not, it’s fun for both adults and kids to play! How?!? Read on to find out!
Boardgames have turned into video games (see Civilization) and video games have made their way into a boardgames (Doom, Starcraft, Age of Empires III). To my knowledge, The Battle at Kemble’s Cascade is the first boardgame designed to capture the nostalgia of playing an old arcade scrolling shooter. Yes, in the game each player controls a fighter pilot desperately trying to defeat enemy ships and collect powerups while avoiding enemy fire. There is even a boss battle at the end, don’t expect to get through the game without using up several of your (albeit unlimited) lives. As a boardgame, Kemble’s Cascade may not quite appeal to the typical strategy boardgamer, but to gamers who remember the arcade shooter genre fondly it manages to recreate much of the experience in boardgame form.
Give the gift of face to face time with a boardgame. It’s time once again for me to preach to the masses on the greatness of boardgaming. Nothing beats the social aspect of in-person gaming with friends. Last year’s run-down of recommended boardgames was a great success. Here again are some great examples of boardgames to get you and your family gaming. You might not find all these titles at your local mega-mart but many can be found online or in a friendly local game store. Those new to the world of boardgaming may find a bit of a sticker shock as some games are pricier than new release video games, but good boardgames will provide many more hours of entertainment than most video games. Boardgames are also relatively timeless so they can be pulled out years from now and provide the same level of enjoyment. In that vein, feel free to delve into some past year’s guides for 2012, 2010, or 2009. For each game I’ve provided the number of players, retail price, and expected time for one game. Note that often these games can be found for 20-40% less than the MSRP.