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A Newbie’s GenCon Wrap-Up

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On Thursday night after work, @Futurewolfie and I and our friend Blake piled into the car and drove to Indianapolis for what is billed as “the best four days in gaming.” This was my first time attending GenCon, and I didn’t quite know what to expect. I can certainly tell you that I didn’t expect to see as many costumes as I did, or steampunk outfits, or scantily clad anime lookalikes. I did, however, expect to see and play board games, and here GenCon 2011 did not disappoint.

I demoed several games, played even more with friends, and overall enjoyed the experience. Below is a list of the new games I tried and what I thought about them. (Keep in mind that these are general impressions—I only played some of them once!)

Quarriors. This game was high on my list of games to try. I love Dominion (did you not know that yet?), but I don’t care for dice too much. I was pleasantly surprised at how fun it was, though I’m not sure about its replayability compared to Dominion. While it’s fun, that much of the game is controlled by random dice rolls might frustrate me to the point of abandonment. Still, my one play was enjoyable, and I’ll cherish the memory of beating @Futurewolfie (even though we were both bested by Blake. It’s true what they say: Don’t mess with Blake.).

Fealty. I had seen something about this game on Kickstarter, so I stopped by the Asmadi booth to give it a try. It was a lot more abstract than I expected. I’m normally not one to overanalyze things, but abstract games are the exception to the rule. I enjoy them, but those who play me might not. The game was fun and novel and forced me to think in new ways. But I lost miserably to @Futurewolfie, which prevented me from becoming too conceited (especially because Quarriors was mostly luck; Fealty involved strategy). I liked the game (and especially its variability—it’s quite modular!), but I’m not sure I could find anyone to play it with. (My failing, not the game’s.)

Ascending Empires. This game gets the gold star, the top prize. I thought it sounded a bit gimmicky—a strategy civilization game with a dexterity component?—but the premise was just intriguing enough to convince me to give it a go. And I am so glad I did. The man at the Z-Man booth was very helpful in explaining the rules, and within minutes we were building our space civilizations. I loved how fast this game moves—like Ticket to Ride, each player can only take one action per turn (discouraging analysis paralysis). I also loved flicking my little ships around, even though at first I was a bit too aggressive and knocked them off the board. Some prime opportunities for ruining @Futurewolfie’s plans presented themselves (and Blake joined the fun), but in the end, our instructor snuck in for the big win. Hey, I said he explained the rules well. What we did with them is our own fault. Thankfully, @Futurewolfie brought this one home with him, and I look forward to more spaceship shuffleboard.

Eminent Domain. I’ve had my eye on this one for a while. I went to the Con expecting to buy this tasty release from Tasty Minstrel Games, and lo! what I expected came to pass. I tried it out with @Futurewolfie and Blake, and I thought it was quite fun. We only played the basic game, though, so we didn’t get the full experience (the basic game pares down the technology choices, which is a good decision: it can be overwhelming when you don’t really know what you’re doing). I expect the full experience to be even more delicious. I’ll post a review sometime soon so you can decide if this should enter your collection ASAP. (Early assumption: it probably should.)

These are the new-new games I played. I also tried a lot of others that were new to me and looked at countless other wares. I spent my GenCon time enjoying the company of those I rode with and those I met at the Con (shout out to @BGJosh!). Overall it was a great experience and I hope to return next year.

I'll try anything once, but my favorite games are generally middleweight Euros.

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