GenCon Diaries: The Games

GenCon was full of many most excellent games. Due to the fact I had an exhibitor's badge, I was able to snag a few of the games that sold out very quickly (Seasons, Battle Beyond Space, Cities). And, due to the fact I hang out with a solid core of designers, I also played many prototypes in development.

Let's go down the list, shall we?

If I'm Going Down 

If I'm Going Down is a solo/co-op zombie game designed by AJ Porfirio of Van Ryder Games. I consider AJ a friend and I was glad to play the final version of this game with him.

AJ sent me an early prototype of IIGD almost a year ago and it has come a LONG way since then. He's added counters, more art, streamlined the zombies, incorporated some cool features (new heroes, pop up zombies, flame thrower), and it's generally a completely different game.

IIGD is somewhat of a tower defense. You're a survivor (not for long) and you're trying to kill as many zombies before the end comes. The game is a solid mix of choices and luck and it plays relatively quickly. Best of all, it tells a story. AJ and I had a HORRIBLE game in which we killed only 2 zombies (after modifiers were factored into the score) and we laughed about it for days.

You can pre-order the game from Game Salute.


This is an abstract prototype in development by another friend, Eric Leath. I'm typically not a fan of abstracts, but this one intrigued me. In fact, Eric returned home to find two long emails from me about the game. It's still on my mind.

In Gyre, each player controls a unique deck of 54 cards. These cards have gears on them with colors and symbols on some of the nodes. The goal is to have a set number of your color facing the same direction.

However, players can remove gears, shift them through chain reactions, lock them in place, and manipulate the discard pile. I see a lot of potential for this and I'm looking forward to his progress.


Seasons attracted me with its beautiful production values and short play time. After two plays, I'm very glad that it's also a very fun game. We'll see how it goes as I play more, but for now it's delightful.

The beginning of the game is crucial. Players draft 9 cards which they will obtain throughout the game. Cards are summoned and provide powerful one-time, perpetual, or activated abilities. Then, players roll and draft dice for resources and other benefits. By the end of the game, every player has a set of cards in front of him and each is trying to score the most points.

I'm very curious to see how this game progresses as I move from novice to mastery. For now, it is $50 well spent.

Dungeon Heroes

Dungeon Heroes was a neat game designed by Michael Coe (Rise!). It struck me as an abstract with theme, which, considering Michael's background, isn't a surprise. One player plays as a team of four adventurers (standard rogue, cleric, warrior, wizard). The other player is the lord of the dungeon. It's a very distilled, streamlined game compared to many dungeon crawlers.

The adventurers win if they get four gold. The dungeon lord wins if he kills the adventurers. What stood out is that the two players play entirely different games. The lord randomly draws, then places tiles like traps, gold, and monsters. At the beginning of the game the dungeon is passive. Things are dormant.

The adventurers are revealing tiles, dismantling traps, and more to gather intelligence during this passive phase. Then, the dungeon comes alive and the lord begins moving and manipulating monsters. I'll be curious to see how this game develops further in the coming months.

Mars Needs Mechanics

Mars Needs Mechanics is a delightful game designed by Benjamin Rosset. Before we go too much further, it needs to be said that Benjamin is an absurdly kind, genuine, sincere person and obviously a very intelligent designer. He went out of his way to say hello every day and that meant a great deal.

In Mars, you are each a mechanic trying to prove his worth and craftiness in order to join the expedition to Mars. The game is fundamentally about buying goods low and selling them high and manipulating the market with a strong timing mechanic such that the result favors you. I can see where a sharp lad with good intuition could be very good at this game.

The game was easy to learn and played in about an hour. It also helped that I played with Cyrus Kirby and his brother, two excellent gentlemen. This game will be on Kickstarter on August 31 I believe. Furthermore, I'm working with Benjamin to get an interview or designer information on Hyperbole Games. Stay tuned for more.

Story Realms

I hesitate to bring up Story Realms, as I literally just watched it played for a few turns over Chris Kirkman's hulking shoulders. However, its production value was top notch and it has such a great premise (a more accessible board game RPG).

The presentation value, even with the quick and dirty prototype, looked really good. There was magic and wonder and folks were discussing how to tackle the situation (like D&D) without all the headaches. Plus, I also witnessed the dice hating Chris Kirkman, which was a treat.

I'm going to work with Escapade Games to discuss Story Realms further as it approaches its Kickstarter date. Angie and her husband have been killing themselves to make the game perfect and I'm excited to see it enter the stage.

I also picked up MorelsBattle Beyond Space, and got a first-hand look at Matt Worden's Magistrate.

The rules for Morels read beautifully and were full of little dashes of wit and humor. I purchased a copy with the hand-carved wooden tokens and it's such an outstanding touch. The husband and wife duo that run Two Lanterns Games were very kind and I hope to chat with Brent more in the future. This will hit the table shortly.

I read the rules for Battle and it looks as if it will be a lot of fun. The game was easy to learn and seems like it has a nice amount of depth. It also has great components and really hits a thematic note for me. It's on the docket for Friday at lunch.

Finally, Magistrate looks very good. Matt Worden noted he and I are tackling similar goals in different ways with Magistrate and Empire Reborn. If that's the case, I'm eager to play it. Matt is a great guy and a friend. But, aside from that, if you've been playing or following his games (I have), you'll see that Magistrate stands to be a culmination of some of his best stuff.

It has subtlety and intrigue, like Subtilla. It has some worker placement elements like you'd see in Colonies of the Jump Gate and planning several turns ahead in a chess like manner (Subtilla, Castle Danger). I loved hearing him discuss the breadth of his testers' experiences, the different strategies, and how well it was received. Jump Gate made a big splash for Matt a short time ago. I really hope Magistrate does so as well. I hope he sends me a copy!

If I didn't list a game here, it's because I didn't buy it or haven't played it yet. I have many other games I wanted to see, but if I didn't, well, I figure you should go elsewhere for that information.

What did you play that was excellent? What did I miss?


For me, the biggest winner was "The Resistance" by Indie Boards and Cards. Not necessarily a new game, but I couldn't get enough of it. I probably played it at least 30 times over the weekend. "Smash Up" by AEG and "Sentinels of the Multiverse" from Greater Than Games are also high in the runnings. So many more awesome games, so little I took them home!