Well, we’re right in the middle of convention season and after a successful Origins and Dice Tower Con, we are right at the onset of Gen Con. This is the 52nd year for Gen Con and for those not familiar, is happening right in the middle of Indianapolis (at the convention center).
This year is reported to have over 65,000 attendees (the largest yet) and feature over 19,000 different events. This is the 6th year I’ve had the opportunity to attend and, as I’ve done in the past, I would like to take a little time to feature some of the highlights of what to expect this year.
First up is Blue Orange Games (booth 1813). They have a few new releases that I was excited about. The one I was most excited about is Slide Quest. Are you a fan of Sorry Sliders? Now add a fantasy theme and a bit of RPG to the mix and you have Slide Quest. In this game, you work as a team to move a knight around a board – maneuvering around obstacles and monsters. This is achieved by lifting up on one of four different levers to move the hero (who has a rolling ball at the base of the figurine). This is an extremely fun family hit!
Next up is Kingdomino Duel. Roll-and-Write’s are extremely popular these days and Kingdomino Duel brings Blue Orange into the mix of fun R&W’s. For those familiar with the domino-building kingdom game in which it is themed (Kingdomino) in Kingdomino Duel, you are combining two different dice values to form a domino and then, in turn, use it to draw it into your kingdom. To find out more about the game you can view the Dice Tower’s review here. If you’re a fan of the original game – and enjoy the Roll & Write craze – this game is for you!
Speaking of Kingdomino, Blue Orange Games will be hosting their USA championship tournament during GenCon
During each hour, 36 participants will be divided into 8 groups of either 4 or 5 players. Groups of 5 players will play with the Kingdomino expansion Age of Giants. The winners of each group will be divided in 2 groups of 4 and will play another game. The 2 winners of those groups will have to come back at 7pm for the Grand Finals.
You can find out more about the tournament by visiting Blue Orange Games’ website here.
Next we’re on to Horrible Games and their release of The King’s Dilemma (booth 3065 – Luma Games). This game is a turn away from their successful Dungeon Fighter line-up and is more of a narrative game that features many evolving decisions made to build an evolving deck of cards.
You will draw one card from the “Dilemma deck” each round and experience the game story as it unfolds. Each card poses a problem that the Council has to resolve on the King’s behalf. As members of the King’s inner circle, your decisions determine how the story proceeds and the fate of the kingdom. Each event happens only once: You discuss and bargain with the other players, then finally you make a choice, determining the outcome, progressing the game story, and possibly unlocking more events.
Let’s now focus some attention on Portal Games (booth 2443). Portal has long been one of my personal favorite Publishers. With hits such as Robinson Crusoe and the recent hit, Detective: A Modern Crime Boardgame, designer (and company owner) Ignacy Trzewiczek, along with Joanna Kijanka, have released Imperial Settlers: Empires of the North. This is a standalone game (set in the Imperial Settlers universe) where players will take on the leaders of either the Scotsmen, Inuits, or Vikings to make them the best empire in the world.
Develop your economy, deflect your opponent, and fight for dominance in the north. Learn new mechanisms, and experience a unique style of Imperial Settlers. Will you be able to create the most successful civilization in Imperial Settlers: Empires of the North?
Last is a visit to Starling Games & Sparkworks (booth 2225 & 2317). Available from Starling is Anomaly – a hidden movement deduction game in which one person/team plays students who are up against a feeding anomaly. What’s unique about this one is that players (students) will use special ability cards that will then be fed to the anomaly, in which case they will be used for their inverse abilities which will benefit the entity. Check this out along with some other light games such as Blindspot (an inventive word game) and Penny Lane (a small worker placement game) both pictured below.
Keep your eyes out for future articles that I’ll try to post over the next couple of days.
Blue Orange Games will be conducting the United States Kingdomino championship at Gen Con 2019. The tournament will take place on Saturday, August 3rd. Participation in the tournament is free; however, it is limited to 144 players that must register ahead of time through the Gen Con event system.
The first place prize for the championship is a round trip flight to Paris, France, to compete in the Kingdomino world championship in August, 2020. The trip also includes two hotels nights and meals.
Click here to read Blue Orange’s full announcement and to get further details on the U.S. championship at this year’s Gen Con.
Kingdomino Duel – a new roll and write for 2 players based on Kingdomino, the 2017 Spiel des Jahres winner. Each face of the four dice in the game is one of six coats of arms or a wild. Each round, the dice are rolled, one player selects one, then the other player selects two, leaving the fourth die for the first player. Each player now has two dice to form a domino they will add to their sheet. Like in Kingdomino, when you place a domino, it needs to match on one side to an already placed domino, or be adjacent to the central castle. Players also can unlock wizard powers that provide a one-time benefit during the game.
Detective Club – a social deduction game for 4-8 players that sounds like a mashup of Dixit and Spyfall. Each round, players will play two cards with surrealistic art to best represent the word chosen by the active player. However, one of the players (the Conspirator) does not know the word and has to choose what to play based on the cards played by other players. Players will then have the opportunity to explain why they chose the cards they played, before each player except the active player votes on whom they think is the Conspirator. The active player and the Conspirator score points if zero or one votes are correctly cast. Other players score points for correctly identifying the Conspirator.
Papi Winchester – an auction game for 2-5 heirs of the recently deceased Papi Winchester. The game board is a map of Papi’s land divided into parcels that will be auctioned off. The money from winning auction bids are evenly disbursed to the other players. Extra money is earned based on public and secret objective cards. At the end of the game, the player with the most money wins.
Dragon Market – a brain teaser game where 2-4 players will collect goods from boats in preparation for the royal wedding. At the start, players will receive a card informing them which goods they are trying to collect. The board is a grid of water squares with player starting spaces in the corners. Boats with various goods are floating around the water. On your turn, you can (1) move your heir, collecting goods from any spaces you move through, (2) move a boat in a straight line, or (3) rotate a boat 180 degrees. The number of moves you can make each turn is based off of a dice roll. The first player to collect their assigned goods and return to their starting space is the winner.
The all powerful hive mind that is American Mensa has once again assembled in their hollowed halls to rate the games of 2019. Every year, more than 300 members of Mensa spend a mad weekend of games and judgement to bestow upon a deserving few the title of Mensa Select Winner. So without further ado, the Mensa Select Winners for 2019 are:
Gizmos by designer Phil Walker-Harding and CMoN Games is an elegant engine building game expanding on the Splendor model, centering on a delightful marble dispenser. Players take turns collecting colored marbles, all the while purchasing cards to improve their collection ability, marble color conversions, storage abilities and card building power.
Gunkimono by designer Jeffrey D. Allers and Renegade Game Studios is a re-imagining of Heartland (2009), transforming the original farming motif to one of war-torn feudal Japan. In this quasi-abstract tile laying game, players choose between expansion for points, and building up for future strongholds.
Planet by designer Urtis Šulinskas and Blue Orange Games is a tile laying, city building game on a grand scale. In a move that would have Euclid roll in his grave, players place magnetic terrain tiles on a 3 dimensional “planet”, creating vast areas of desert, ocean, forest, etc. in order to meet specific goals.
Victorian Masterminds by master designers Antoine Bauza and Eric M. Lang with CMoN Games is a breathtakingly beautiful steampunk worker placement masterpiece. Players each take on the role of super villains in the recent wake of Sherlock Holmes’ disappearance, trying to take over the world with their unique doomsday plots.
In Planet, designed by Urtis Šulinskas, with art by Sabrina Miramon (known for Photosynthesis), 2-4 players are super beings who compete to create perfect worlds in the palms of their hands. The game plays in 30-45 mins, and is suited for players aged 8+.
Player boards are 12-sided, 3-dimensional planet cores which, over 12 turns, have landscape tiles representing oceans, deserts, mountains, or frozen lands, arranged to create the best ecosystems. As a “natural habitat” is created, players are awarded Animal Cards, which allows them to win if they have the most populated planet in the universe.
First is Blue Lagoon designed by award winning game designer Reiner Knizia. Blue Lagoon is a set collection games with an area control mechanic. Players manage settlers to explore the islands, collect resources, and build villages. Points are awarded collecting resources and colonizing the islands.
Blue Lagoon plays 2-4 players, ages 8+, in 30-45 minutes. Contents include game board, 24 wooden resources, 8 wooden statuettes, 20 wooden villages, 120 settler tokens, 1 linen bag, score pad, and rulebook.
Next, Bruno Cathala and Ludovic Maublanc have teamed up again to design Scarabya.Scarabya is an area enclosure game with a tile placement mechanic. Players are competing archeologist on their own dig site (player board) attempting to place tiles around the golden scarabs on their player board. Each gold scarab enclosed is worth the size of its enclosure, up to four points. The challenge is that the tiles to create an enclosure come in different shapes, is drawn at random, and is played in order. All the players draw and place their tiles concurrently and the game continues until the last tile is drawn and played or discarded. The player with the most points in golden scarabs at the end of the game is the winner.
Scarabya plays 1-4 players, ages 8+, in 15-20 minutes. Contents include 4 sets of 12 tiles, 4 sets of 4 boards, 4 sets of 8 rocks, 4 frames, 72 scarab tokens, 12 mission cards, and rulebook.
ASTRA or the American Specialty Toy Retailing Association has announced their Best Toys For Kids Awards for 2018. They describe their awards as:
“…the Best Toys for Kids Award is intended to heighten consumer awareness of the value of creative, open-ended play and the role that independent, locally owned toy stores play in providing children quality playthings that promote happy, healthy, and productive childhoods.”
A great goal to be sure! Let’s see what retailers around America have picked as their favorites.
Best Game Night Award is ITZI by the makers of TENZI. Answer the given questions as fast as you can, but you can only use the letters in front of you! Be the first to use all 5 of your cards first and you win! Fast, fun, competitive and definitely great for game night!
Game Play Under 7 Award isGnomes at Night a cooperative board game by Peaceable Kingdom-A Mindware Brand. For ages 6 and up use your skill and quickness to recover the Queen’s treasures in the twisty castle. The Gnome pieces are magnetic adding an element of dexterity and sensory development for the littles in your group!
Best Game for 7+ is Forbidden Sky by Gamewright. I am personally, really excited for this one! Not even released for retail yet this is the third installment in the Forbidden Series of games that started on and island moved to a desert and now soar to new heights as you investigate a suspicious air base. This game actually includes an electric circuit players need to assemble correctly before the platform falls to the earth! Coming Soon to your favorite game retailer!
Best Game Strategy is Photosynthesis by Blue Orange Games. Learn how trees grow as you play through the process of Photosynthesis. Plant your trees in optimal soil and expose them to the most sunlight so they grow the biggest and most healthy. Avoid the shade because no sun equals no growth for your little tree. This game is also environmentally friendly being made from 100% recycled cardboard.
First, there are the Giants! Certain dominoes cause a giant to appear on your kingdom. Those giants stand on crowns in your kingdom and prevent you from scoring them at the end of the game. Other dominoes allow you to get rid of the giant in your kingdom and send it over to an opponent’s kingdom.
Second, there are Quest that can be played with The Middle Kingdom rule. Quests allow your middle kingdom to score additional points if the surrounding squares or the four corners of your middle kingdom fulfills the quest conditions. This expansion is played separate from the Giants.
Lastly, Kingdomino: Age of Giants! adds a fifth player.
A nice addition with the expansion is the distribution tower to hold all the dominoes.
Contents of the expansion include 3D castle, 1 distribution tower, 2 brown wooden kings, 1 starting tile, 29 dominoes (12 Giant dominoes, 17 Quest tiles), 6 “Giant” meeples, and a score pad.
Learn more about Kingdomino: Age of Giants! from Blue Orange Games. Kingdomino: Age of Giants! is available for pre-orders now and will be in stores in August 2018.
Each year the Mensa foundation, a group which fosters intelligence for the benefit of humanity, selects a handful of tabletop games that prove to be unique, challenging, and well-designed. This decision is made after the Mind Games event, a grueling 40-plus-hour board gaming marathon with more than 300 participants. The winners receive the Mensa Select award and are prominently featured on their website as games which promote the growth of critical thinking and are of particularly high quality. This year’s winners have been announced:
Congratulations to all the winners! I can attest that these games are deserving of the award, having played all of them. Renegade Games continues to demonstrate that they are a prominent publisher with an excellent catalog under their belt, Azul commands respect as a rock-solid masterpiece, Photosynthesis shows that it is as beautiful to look at as it is designed, and Constellations teaches us that a game can be as thoughtful about education as it is about being fun. If you’re interested in continued reading about the decision-making process or American Mensa themselves, or to check out past winners, check outtheir website for more information.
Blue Orange Games, well-known for publishing games for all ages, has announced its slate of 2018 releases. In all, sixteen games are coming out throughout the year.
“It’s a new year, and you know what that means- new games! This year we are excited to be publishing a diverse lineup that includes high-energy dexterity races, adorable cooperative games (a Blue Orange first!), playfully packaged smaller games, and unique brain teasers.”
Both Mindo and Mindo Zen are solo brain teasers that come in compact boxes so you can take them with you on the go. You flip double-sided tiles trying to recreate the pattern that’s on the challenge tile. Since the tiles will only fit one way, you will have to puzzle it out.
In the Family Game area, there’s Shaky Manor. This is a game where players are entering a spooky manor in search of a treasure that legend says exists hidden in it somewhere. Players will move their character and treasures into certain rooms that are on the challenge card by shifting and tilting the box around. When you succeed, more creatures will be added to make it even tougher to get your next treasure (and yourself) to safety.
In the Preschool Game category, there’s Happy Bunny, a cooperative game where players are trying to pick the best carrots out of the box for the bunny. Bitten carrots go to the bunny while the others will go to the farmer. This game will teach teamwork, motor skills, and simple counting.
Finally, in the Fun-Sized Games category, which consists of easily portable games, there’s Clouds. Clouds is a matching game where players turn over a card and then quickly try to find the matching halves that complete the picture. It can be played as a race with your friends or as a solo challenge. It even comes in a cloud-shaped pouch!