Monday, August 11, 2014

Gen Con or Gen Cool? 5 Board Games of Interest

The next worker placement critique in the series is still on the way.

But I've been hanging out on my Twitter feed a little too long. And unfortunately, I caught something that's been a real lamprey to get rid of. But this blog post might just do it.

I try to avoid current board games. The marketing blitz surrounding them often conceals key inadequacies only later revealed once you open the box. You pull back the curtain, a woman screams and you say "My God, what have I done?" And the game is already on your shelf.

The last game whose spiky hype I fell upon was a little pirate game called Get Bit. And MOST ironically…that is exactly what happened!

Far better to look at the games people are still talking about 1 or 2 or 3 years later. What has survived the hype?

So I was loitering on Twitter and picked up a true social disease. We'll call it Gen Con Fever.

I'm not even going to Gen Con. It's happening this weekend. If you didn't buy tickets a year ago, you are out of luck. If you really want to go to Gen Con, trying going to literally any other board game con. There is probably one in your very own metro area, and possibly as many as three…get researching!

One thing publishers like to do is show off brand new titles, and this is where the fever found a way into my brain. So the following games might completely suck. But something about each of them draws me in, pulling my strings, enticing me with a spicy, curious brain scent I am unable to identify. Before long I'm zombified and dangling from a tree branch.

1) Destination: Neptune
Seen in action: PairofDice Paradise's GTS coverage
I really love space flight and space exploration. Today's "science fiction" games typically don't deal with the technology of space but instead use it as a setting to trot out the traditional tropes. I used to play Buzz Aldrin-approved (he approved the computer version at least) Liftoff!. To see something with similar theme added to more a modern almost Puerto-Rico-esque design makes me take notice. I have 90 minutes for that, easy.

2) Pay Dirt
Seen in action: Rahdo Runs Through It
I'm am going to be so sick of worker placement games. But, add a new theme, with cool interactive mechanics and I start to get interested again. Love speculation. Love blowing up my opponents. Love creating machines. The publisher saw fit to make this as a promotional video. Despite the fun everyone seems to be having, this might be a little too complicated for my blood…but there's only one way to find out.

3) Imperial Settlers
Seen in action: Portal Training Video
For a long time, I have tended an interest in Ignacy Trzewiczek's 51st State. The game is a complex hand and resource management game with drafting. Somewhere in the same vicinity as Race for the Galaxy. But the game keeps going through different revisions. And the very last revision is a complete overall into something called Imperial Settlers. Did I say I love creating machines? The main mechanic of Imperial Settlers seems to be finding a combo and taking over the game with it. And if you are on the receiving end? At least the game is short.

4) Five Tribes
Seen in action: Boardgamegeek designer preview
This has been described to me as a "worker placement game in reverse". Designed by famed game artisan Bruno Cathala, I think Five Tribes looks more like Carcassonne in reverse, where you are picking meeple back up to score points. I love Carcassonne, I love Kingdom Builder. And what really blows my mind…this game starts out with all the pieces on the board, and during playing the game you're actually picking it up! Who hates long maintenance phases in board games (I raise my hand)?

5) Abyss
Seen in action: GreyElephant LivePlay
Another Bruno Cathala game! Fantasy themes are boring when absolutely no effort goings into making them different. The underwater theme of Abyss, full of jellyfish acquisition in order to woo powerful aquatic lords, is something completely different. And the money for the game is pearls!

The best thing to do for all of these games is to wait a couple months at least. After some of the hype dies down you will start to hear about the problems. Some of these games are no doubt completely broken and unplayable (or maybe not). Push down your emotions. Or forever will they rule you and your wallet.

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