GenCon 2016 has come and gone and it is, essentially, the E3 of board games. Every year dozens of board games are debuted there to be demoed (or purchased) by thousands of gamers hungry to be on the cutting edge of the hobby.
We, unfortunately, weren’t able to make the trip ourselves, but thanks to BoardGameGeek.com and a lot of press releases we have a pretty good idea of what games made a big splash there. Take a look below for a list of the games that we have our eyes on.
- Plaid Hat Games
- Ages 14+
- 3-5 Players
- 90-120 minutes
Legacy games shouldn’t be anything new to board game fans as there have been several. The most recent legacy game, Pandemic: Legacy Season One, took the world by storm last year. Seafall, however, is different because it is the first game that has been built from the ground up as a Legacy game.
In Seafall, players take on the role of explorers during the age of sail that have discovered a new land. The map on the gameboard is empty and it is up to the players to explore the land and see what is going on.
What I love most about this game is that I have to speak about it in general terms because I honestly don’t know what happens. I know there is a story much like there was in previous Legacy games. I just don’t know what it is, and the fact that it is a completely new title means I have no context to try and figure it out on my on.
I guess I’ll just have to play it!
- Stonemeier Games
- Ages 14+
- 1-5 Players
- 90-115 minutes
There are very few games that have been hyped up as much as Scythe has been over the past year. This is a game that was backed heavily on Kickstarter thanks to its gorgeous art and the fascinating premise. The game takes place in a diesel-punk alternate history version of post World War I. Some of the art featured in the game includes quant pastoral villages with adorable farmhouses being towered over by multistory diesel-belching mechs.
At first, when I saw the campaign I had assumed that it was a miniatures wargame featuring towering mechs and bear riders. But, as I learned more about the game I found out that it is really more about resource management and territory control. You actually can only earn so many points through battle. The rest of the points you earn are through other means.
One feature that I think really sets the game apart is the idea of popularity. Different achievements and resources are worth a different amount of points dependant upon your popularity level with the people. This means that taking explicitly evil actions that might turn the people against you can have a significant cost in the long run (that doesn’t mean they won’t be worth it though).
Star Trek Panic
- 1-6 Players
- 90-120 minutes
We have talked about Castle Panic before and you might be tempted to just write this one off as a simple reskinning of the original. Do yourself a favor and wipe those thoughts away right now.
Star Trek Panic adds a lot to the formula like
We’ve talked about Castle Panic before. Star Trek Panic is similar in form, but it does more than replace the sword and sorcery theme with a shiny sci-fi one. Instead, this game adds things like missions, character cards, and new mechanics.
The best part about the game though? The cardboard USS Enterprise that sits in the center of the game board while you play.
Star Trek: Ascendancy
- Gale Force Nine
- Ages 14+
- 3 Players
- 90-180 minutes
This is a big year for Star Trek. We had a new movie (Star Trek: Beyond), an upcoming series (Star Trek: Discovery), and several licensed board games. While Star Trek Panic is a lighter strategy game based around an existing idea, Star Trek: Ascension brings the Trek universe into the heavy strategy genre.
The gameboard is all but blank when this game starts. That is because the galaxy will be discovered slowly as the three players (each one controlling either the Federation, The Klingon Empire, or the Romulan Empire respectively) travel around the board discovering new stars, planets, and eventually each other. At that point the players will need to trade, form alliances, and explore in order to earn the win.
Vast: The Crystal Caverns
- Leader Games
- Ages 10+
- 1-5 Players
- 75 minutes
Asymmetrical gameplay is a challenge, but is is very cool when it comes together well in a board game. Vast: The Crystal Caverns certainly shoots to accomplish that.
Vast is a dungeon crawler game that has each player assigned to a different role from the valiant knight and the slumbering dragon to the cave itself. Each role has completely different game mechanics and win conditions. For example: The Knight wins by killing the dragon. The Dragon wins by waking up and escaping. The cave wins by collapsing in itself and crushing everyone else inside.
- Cool Mini or Not
- Ages 10+
- 3-6 Players
This is a cooperative game where players take on the role of greek titans who are working to create a sustainable world. There are element cards which help you build nature cards, Nature cards are used to build the planet.
The game looks as simple as it is fast. The entire deck of cards is dealt out to the players. Gameplay involves multiple rounds wherein players while simultaneously play cards trying to complete different phases of creation. The key is that players cannot communicate directly about what they are going to play. This limitation can be circumvented by using a limited resource, but it is a pretty significant part of the challenge.
Ticket to Ride: Rails and Sails
- Days of Wonder
- Ages 10+
- 2-5 players
- 60-120 minutes
Ticket to Ride: Rails and Sails mixes up the traditional TTR formula in two main ways. The first is that it includes a double sided map that includes a world map and a map focused on the Great Lakes region of the United States. The second is that players can also claim routes across land using trains and sea using boats. They even mix things up by including train cards and boat cards that players have to collect to claim their respective routes. This adds a lot of new decisions for players to make.
We haven’t played a bad version of Ticket to Ride yet, so we’re sure this will be a great one to add to the collection.
Beyond Baker Street
- Ages 13+
- 2-4 players
- 20 minutes
This is a Sherlock Holmes themed cooperative deduction game. Players are racing to solve a crime before the legendary Sherlock Holmes can. The gameplay itself is very similar to Hanabi. Players each hold a set of five clues, but they can’t see what they have. They can only see their what their teammates are holding. Each turn players can Assist another detective, Investigate a crime scene, Confirm evidence, Eliminate dead leads, or Pursue new leads. The players win if they can gather enough evidence before Holmes does.
I’ll admit that I have had some bad experiences with Hanabi, but I am definitely willing to give this one a shot.
- Ages 12+
- 2-8 Players
- 30-60 minutes
Ok. So we all played Battleship when we were kids right? Captain Sonar is a game that pits two teams of players against each other as they each run Submarines that are trying to destroy one another. Each player has a separate role and the battles take place in real time.
This sounds to us like it has the makings of a great game to pull out at game nights and we can’t wait to give it a shot.
Killer Snails: Assassins of the Sea
This is a competitive deck building game that is themed around the idea of farming deadly cone snails. They are deadly creatures, but they can be farmed to harness some of their pieces to help make medicines and other useful products.
Killer Snails was designed in collaboration with the American Museum of Natural History, the National Science Foundation, and the Media Center IFP. There is even a teacher’s guide to using this game to help learn.
Fight for Olympus
- Lookout Games/Mayfair Games
- Ages 12+
- 2 Players
- 30 Minutes
Fight for Olympus is a two player competitive card game with strategic elements. The game is based on Greek Mythology so we know our oldest son is hungry for this one.
Players control six spaces on a virtual game board. Three of them are reserved for military action and the other three are for resources and “Power Discs.” Creatures played in the front row deal damage to creatures directly across from them. If there are no creatures to attack then the damage is dealt to the other player directly.
The art on the different cards looks great and the combat mechanics look interesting enough to rocket this game very high on our list.
Did you see anything at GenCon 2016 that caught your eye? Sound off in the comments!