Suzanne and myself made the trip this September to our first convention in well over a year and a half. Gen Con 2021 was an amazing experience. There may have been reduced capacity, typical vendors were not there, and some vendors that were there had booths that were significantly different. That didn’t make the convention any less awesome. In fact, in many ways it made Gen Con 2021 the best Gen Con to date!
There was so much to see and experience this year. With smaller crowds and lines you were able to more easily enjoy the things that you wanted to do. Events may have been hard to get signed up for, but it wasn’t so hard if you wanted to walk up and try a game. There are always no shows for events and this year was not an exception. On top of that, almost the entire Hall A was dedicated to open gaming which made that section of the convention a very happening place each evening!
Gen Con 2021 – Day 0 Wednesday Evening
Suzanne and I were extremely excited for this year’s Gen Con. After getting checked in we wanted to check out the Block Party on Georgia Street. We were able to check out the food carts and grab our first beer well before 5 pm. We thought the crowds here were way down from previous years, but there were still plenty of people.
This year’s Gen Con special beer release from Sun King Brewing was a re-release of last years since 2020 there was no in person convention. This was our first chance to give it a try. It was cold and delicious! The belgian amber had a great malty sweet flavor that really hit the spot.
Heading back to the hotel room we took a stroll through the convention center. Partially to cool down, but also I think it’s a good idea to help orientate yourself to where all of the major halls are. There are always cool things set up in the displays and this year wasn’t an exception. Many of the talked about board games from this year were set up on display in glass cabinets by the main vendor hall.
Our first game, once we reached the hotel was Zombie Fluxx from Looney Labs. In my opinion, this is the best version of Fluxx available. With so many variants though, I am sure everyone has their opinions. This resulted in my first victory in a game during the weekend. After the game, tired from the drive and the long day we hit the sack in preparation for the first official day of Gen Con.
Gen Con 2021 – Day 1 Thursday
Mischief at the Museum
We started our Thursday early, with an 8 am start in the First Exposure Playtest hall. This event is put on by Double Exposure Inc. and their goal is to help new game developers get first hand play testing and feedback for their games.
The game we played is called Mischief at the Museum from publisher Surprisingly Fun Games. This was a great, lighter game that was pretty well polished. In the game, you play one of the various asymmetric roles and move around the museum interacting with exhibits and other visitors to collect various tokens that represent things like love, mischief, and other things. At the end of the game you will match these tokens to end game scoring cards to score points at the end of the game.
As it turned out, I managed to secure my second victory for the weekend. I didn’t see this coming though as I was only able to score two of my cards. However, my cards had quite a few points. It played to an interesting strategy to select more cards that were easier to score or select the bigger points cards that were harder to score.
Exhibit Hall Opens!!!
Wrapping up our play test, we made our way to the opening of the Exhibit Hall. We bumped into some friends on the walk which is one of the great things about Gen Con. After a quick catching up, we made our way to the crowd.
This was definitely one of the biggest crowds I saw all weekend, but people were loosely spread out. Everyone was masked and the whole weekend those attendees to Gen Con we saw did a pretty good job of staying masked. Surprisingly, gamers have a good idea of how to read and follow rules!
Over the course of the weekend we did pretty well for ourselves. This first wonder through the hall was mostly to just check things out. The big thing that I found was that there was an occasional empty booth. More importantly, there was just cool displays that Gen Con put up like the big Genevieve banner that you could take pictures with.
The other big take away was how easy it was to get a demo of a game. This lead to a few unplanned purchases. Hey, isn’t that part of what the Gen Con experience is supposed to be about?
Adam’s Apple Games – Thrive and Four Humors
Our afternoon at the convention was spent playing a pair of games from Adam’s Apple Games – Thrive and Four Humors.
The best way I can describe Thrive is checkers on steroids. It’s a two player game and you play with 5 game pieces. You have the ability to upgrade the movement capabilities of each piece by inserting pegs. Based on the orientation from the center peg it it will provide indication on what direction you can move (and how many spaces) you can move the piece. Your goal is to eliminate 4 of your opponents pieces.
During the round that one player’s fourth piece is removed both players are allowed an even number of turns. That means if you were the first player, your opponent has the opportunity to also remove one of your pieces. This sets up a situation where both players only have one piece remaining. The easiest way to calculate victory is to determine which player has the most pegs in their piece and declare them the winner.
In both games we played Suzanne emerged victorious. I really liked this game, even if I wasn’t doing that well at it. This is a really good take on a take a piece mechanic game. It’s certainly worth checking out and glad we had the opportunity to play it
Four Humours is a much different game from Thrive. The copy we played was a demo/incomplete copy as it just completed it’s run on Kickstarter. During the game you are drawing tolkiens that you do not reveal to your opponents. On your turn you will place one of these tokens on one of the various cards that are out. When two of these cards fill with tokens, you will resolve all four. Players who meet the winning condition on the card are then allowed to place the token on the main map.
The main map is linked then to scoring cards, like have your tokens on all six map tiles. We only had 4 of these cards in the version that we played, but I suspect the main game will have many more.
Overall, this game was interesting. I am glad we gave it a try, but I spent much of the game frustrated as I continued to lose on territories that I expected to win. Still, it’s a cool game and I think there are a ton of people out there that will really enjoy this game.
A Gooey Cube – Darktide’s Night
I managed to snag a ticket for my first ever role playing event at Gen Con. This event was put on by Gooey Cube called Darktide’s Night. I don’t want to say too much about what happened during the session, but I will say that it felt very dark and creepy. I imagined it very much as if it was dark fantasy. Creepy tree house, changing rooms, and puzzles to solve. Combats were light and quick.
Each of us played a pre-generated character in the game. There was a misstep because all of the characters were barbarians. Just a copy and paste error, but we were able to grab the digital copies of the characters and play with the correct stats. The best part of this system is that all of the scenes, NPCs, and significant encounters have art to go with them.
I really enjoyed the feel of the game and the players were great. The next day I met the creator of the game and bought the first chapter in the campaign they are creating around this unique world. The box includes everything you need to run your characters through about 20 hours of game play, NPCs, encounter art, and the adventure content.
Gen Con – Day 2 Friday
Kingdomino – Age of Giants
We started our second day with another early start. We enjoy Kingdomino enough. It’s a pretty light game, but plays well as a two player and quickly. We had been curious about the Age of Giants expansion and this was a chance to give it a try. We joined another couple and played three games.
This game was put on by the group called Game Base 7. This group provides assistance to local gaming groups and conventions.
In Age of Giants you add some additional tiles. These tiles add giant tokens that when you have to place one of the new tiles with a giant icon in your kingdom you have to place the giant on one of your scoring crowns. Later, if you can place a tile with a giant’s footprints in your kingdom you can give one of your giants to another player of your choice.
After three plays, there’s definitely some new strategy you can play here. One thing we found was that the game now had large differences in score from winners to losers. If you play a lot of Kingdomino I would recommend you check out this expansion.
Paris: La Cité de la Lumière
Paris: La Cite de la Lumiere from Devir Games is a two player tile laying game where you are trying to light up the city of Paris. You go through an initial drafting of tiles you believe you will be able to place. Then you go through a drafting of cards and tile placement that sets up end game scoring. Once you have completed these two phases you calculate how many lamps light up your buildings for points, add in a few other scoring points, and then determine the winner.
This is a neat little two player game. I enjoyed this game quite a bit. They were demoing this game to help promote the recent expansion Paris: Eiffel. This expansion added in a number of card 3D elements such as an Eiffel Tower. We didn’t talk to anyone about what the expansion might add to the game, but overall this is a fun little two player that we enjoyed.
AEG Big Game Night
This is the first time we attended AEG Big Game Night. This is an annual Gen Con affair where hundreds of players gather to get some play three AEG titles, get some free games, and if they are lucky be a raffle winner. This year featured Tiny Towns, Whirling Witchcraft, and Ten.
We own Tiny Towns which says something for this game. It’s a cool resource collection, set matching, modified tile placement game. The feel is a bit tetris like as when you gain a resource, it must occupy a square on your grid. You can convert these resources for buildings which take up less space and score you end game points or have in game effects. At AEG Game Night this meant that we had the entire room playing Tiny Towns simultaneously. It was pretty neat to see something like 500 gamers all playing the same game at once.
Next up was Whirling Witchcraft. I have to say I wasn’t excited for this game, but getting a chance to play it at AEG Game Night changed my tune quickly. This is one of my favorite new games from the convention. You play a witch who is casting spells to use up your ingredients so that you can overflow the player to your right with too many ingredients. Any overflow comes back to you for end game scoring. You have to balance this with trying to use up the ingredients that you are gaining from your opponent to your left. It’s a really interesting balance as you draft spell cards each round and then cast your spells.
The final game of the night was Ten. This is a pretty light card game about collecting runs of cards. On your turn you push your luck by drawing cards until you stop or bust. Then you have an opportunity to buy a busted card from the market and then finish your turn. When the draw deck runs out the game is over and you tally up the score. I have to say I was tired at this point in the night, but this game just didn’t excite me that much. That said, I have a copy in my collection now and it may make it back to the table for another try.
Gen Con – Day 3 Saturday
For Saturday, we slowed down with only two events on the calendar. We knew the evening was going to be free so we decided that evening we would hold our first WiscoDice Game Night in the open gaming area. We had talked potentially about doing this, but just wanted to see how we were physically and mentally doing at this point. As it turns out, getting to sleep in a little on Saturday was just the thing!
One thing that really surprised us was how small the crowd was Saturday morning for the Exhibit Hall. There’s still a small mass, but normally this hallway is crowded shoulder to shoulder with people ready to run and chants of DO NOT RUN being echoed. This was so much more timid this year and casual. It was a real joy to experience.
Lost Ruins of Arnak Special Event
After some confusion as to what table we were supposed to be at, we were seated at the correct table and able to try what I will call a prototype version of the new Expedition Leaders expansion. Lost Ruins of Arnak from CGE has turned into one of our favorite games from 2020 so trying out the expansion made us really excited. Each of us had one of the six new player boards/characters to start the game. In addition, one of the new research track boards was in use.
The other big change was that the track that your magnifying glass and log book have to go up is replaced. This one was very interesting and much different than the ones printed on the game board. By round 4 we were all sprinting up these tracks. While we didn’t finish this game, I think Suzanne and I were both poised to race up the final stretch of this board if we would have played a final turn.
I played the “Professor” who focused alot more on collecting compasses and tablets and really maximizing the use of relics. Suzanne’s character focused on generating money and purchasing equipment chards. The other two characters in play were the leader who had an extra architect pawn and a character who had a bird that would power up their ability to explore the island’
The Professor’s special was that his suit case allowed him to draw three artifact cards that only he could purchase during the game. The suitcase also allowed him over the course of the game collect bonus compass and tablets that could only be used to purchase those artifacts (or activate artifacts). There were ways to swap artifacts from the suitcase with ones on the board so you could try to ensure you had the ones you wanted. It was an interesting play on the manipulation of these cards.
The cards you start with are different for each character. They are all takes on the basic starting cards from the base game. The biggest difference is that I always found these cards useful and struggled with the decisions of if I should use the card for the movement symbol or the card’s action effect.
It was bittersweet to be down to our last event ticket, but in a way it was also a relief. No more worrying about the clock and which event we want to get to next. Just do what we wanted to do for the rest of the convention.
Raccoon Tycoon from Forbidden Games is a fun game where you play as the forest critter to build your Raccoon empire. Collect forest friends, aquire locomotives and towns, sell resources when the selling is good, and anticipate the markets as you collect resources.
Honestly, I bombed out of this game and did not do well. I just couldn’t win any of the auctions, my selling of goods seemed to always go for less because I was a turn behind. I don’t have enough experience with this game, but I would have to say that being the last player in player order definitely didn’t feel good. I know this game is fairly popular though and if given the chance I will give it another try. First play though just didn’t feel like it was the game for me.
WiscoDice Game Night!!!!
We had a late lunch and powered up on deep dish pizza we headed to Hall A where the open gaming was and snagged an open table near the walkway. At this point, Hall A was pretty full. There were a couple of tables where you could see designers trying to play test or promote whatever their new game was, but for the most part it was people like us with their new games hoping to get plays.
We started out the evening with Dice Miner from Atlas Games. A dice drafting game with a dwarf fantasy theme, this game proved easy to teach and highly popular with the people that stepped up to the table to try a game.
The Night Cage
Another largely popular game of the evening, and in fact the convention was The Night Cage from Smirk and Dagger Games. This game is a bit different than a lot of Smirk And Dagger titles. In the game you play cooperatively with the other players as prisoners who can only see as far as their candle can see, essentially the adjacent tile. As players explore, unlit tiles fall of the board. The game ends when all of the tiles have been explored. If the players can’t find a key for each player and all be on the same gate before the end of the game the players lose.
Other Games Played
We were able to get a game of Gloom from Atlas Games in as well. In Gloom you play as a family that you are trying to make miserable and have them die horribly. Of course, other players are playing cards onto your family members to make them happy and enjoy life. Can you kill your family members faster than your opponents can make them happy? That’s the struggle. When one of the players has lost all of their family members the game ends and whoever has the most unhappy dead members is the winner.
We also played a three player and five player game of Whirling Witchcraft from AEG. Both games were absolutely a blast, with laughs and groans at the table.
We wrapped up the evening with a couple of games of The Resistance from Indie Board and Card Games. This game is a quick social deduction game where half (roughly) the table is Resistance players and the other half are spies. The spies know who each other is. You send a number of players on missions each round and depending on which side you are on you want the missions to succeed or fail.
Gen Con – Day 4 Sunday
We only had one thing left to do. Play #BoardGameBrunch at Gen Con. We selected Truck Off: Food Truck Frenzy from Adams Apple Games because when people think of food at Gen Con it’s synomous with the Foot Trucks. #BoardGameBrunch is our weekly blog series where we pair a food item with a game that we play Sunday morning during brunch. Here in Wisconsin Sunday Brunch is a favorite activity of many families and we thought what better way to pair the two things together.
We were able to get two plays of Truck Off in with a three player and four player game. It’s been a while since I played this game as more than a two player. Check out our blog article covering our #BoardGameBrunch at Gen Con!
That’s a Wrap
We had a blast at Gen Con. I only hit on the big highlights for the convention here, but there was so much more. Food, demos, sights, cosplay and so much to check out. I would strongly recommend if you are thinking about going and haven’t experienced Gen Con that you should definitely check it out.
If you enjoyed this, stick around and check out some of these other articles:
- Kickstart Monday: Nassau & Kathmandu and Everstone
- Episode 119: Top Recommendations for a Well-Rounded Board Game Collection
- Kickstart Monday: Trailblazer: Arizona Trail and Four Forests
- Kickstart Monday: Cryptic Nature and Among Cultists
- Kickstart Monday: Photo Tour: North America and EVE: War for New Eden