Gen Con 2013 is in the Books...I'll walk you through Mine...
J. David Koch
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With everyone else doing their Gen Con lists, it made sense to jump on the band wagon. So let's get to it.
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1. Board Game: Rialto [Average Rating:6.95 Overall Rank:796]
 
J. David Koch
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For this list, I am going to mostly call out the games I bought and/or played and give you my impressions in a haphazard matter.

Bought this just before the show and had chance to break it out on Weds before Gen Con formally began.
Played with Adam D., Scott, and Adam W.

Thoughts

After Bora Bora which I enjoy but really can make you feel like your brain is boiling over, it is nice to see Feld dial back the difficulty a bit and go for a lighter experience.

Have to say that between this and Brugge (a Gen Con purchase for me) I really think Rialto will have more legs. At least with my family if not my game group.

Light without being fluffy, there are a lot of interesting decisions packed into the game.

I heard this described as being similar to San Marco and I could not disagree more.
Yes, it is set in the same general area of the world and yes it is an area control game.
But that is where I think the similarities stop.
Where San Marco features a "I cut you choose mechanic" Rialto is more of a "play more and get more game".

The game play consists of choosing a set of cards that are dealt face up in a column next to the board. You then add two cards from a face down stack and then discard down to your hand limit of 7. (There are opportunities to use special abilities to increase your hand limit)
From those cards you play a set of cards based on type out to the table in turn order.
The player that has the most of a given set is given a bonus to use on that round. (Get more gold, buy a bigger building, place more workers, etc.) You do this for six rounds and the game is over.
That is over simplified, but you get the idea.
During the game players determine how valuable each location is in terms of scoring.
The whole game even with a full compliment of 5 players takes about 45-60 minutes.
Bottom line: I really like it.

Now I've heard from a couple of people that they thought the game could become too "samey" since Rialto is limited to the same cards and the same buildings game after game.
I could not disagree more.

That is like saying that every game of Poker is the same every game since you use the same set of cards.

What I really like about Rialto is you are not really playing the mechanics, you are playing the other players.

How many of this set is your opponent going to play? Should you go higher or save your cards for the next round. Do I need gold this round to fire off my buildings or do I need to concentrate on placing more workers?
Do I get more workers from the general supply for my player board, or do I concentrate on reducing the value of a particular area since another player has area majority there?

There was one round where I completely poisoned a location for another player that took him out of the running for another area where I had a lot of points building up.
He looked at me shocked and then burst out laughing vowing to take me down.

Great fun.

Suggest you make your own determination after further investigation, but don't listen to the naysayers.

This is classic Feld with a lighter touch.


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2. Board Game Publisher: Z-Man Games
J. David Koch
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Traditional Thursday morning crush when the dealer hall opened.
You really have to decide where you are going first as so many of the new releases sell out fast.

My decision was to head straight to Z-Man games to see my buddy Zev and grab what I could from my buy list before they were all gone.

Really wanted to pick up Brugge since I knew copies would go quickly.
From doing my homework (Thanks Rahdo video casts. -- Sidebar: if you have not added Rahdo to your video cast queue, I suggest you do so. He does excellent work.)

I picked out my first selections.
Brugge
Palaces of Carrara
and a couple others that were on my radar
Parade
Targi

First stop down.


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3. Board Game: Bruges [Average Rating:7.46 Overall Rank:206]
J. David Koch
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Anyone who knows me knows I'm a Feld groupie.
Love almost all of his work with a couple notable exceptions (I'm looking at you Luna and Rum and Pirates)

Thoughts

Again a lighter, gentler Feld, but like Rialto, still filled with really interesting decisions.

The mechanic here is really interesting.
You draw cards from two face down stacks that are available to you during your turn.
Your only real clue as to what the card might feature is the color on the card back. (Brown, Purple, Yellow, Red, or Blue)
Each card can be used for a variety of purposes (Build canals, get more workers, stave off a disaster, get money, build a house for professional to move in, hire a professional for your organization,etc.)

What I like about the game is there are multiple paths to victory and like many Feld games, dice are involved to create some sense of randomness, but never in a traditional "roll and move" style.
Since you really don't know what cards will be available for you to draw, all the cards can be used by you in some way even if those ways are not always optimum.
I suppose my only real complaint about the game is that it is very hard to look out and plan any more than that current rounds since you really have no control over what cards are going to be available and it can really screw you over.
If you really need a red card to further your strategy that is too bad for you if no red cards become available on your turn.

Think it is a great game, but I wish there was just a touch more control from round to round.

I know this is going to see a lot of play in my game group, but I don't know if anyone in my family would really take to it.
But for me Feld = fun so it earns a permanent spot in my collection.

Like I said earlier, most of my friends prefer this over Rialto.
I just fall in the other camp.




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4. Board Game: The Palaces of Carrara [Average Rating:7.23 Overall Rank:570]
J. David Koch
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Without a doubt, the surprise of Gen Con for me!
What a fantastic game!

I knew that I wanted to pick this up based on the video cast Rahdo did for it and it being a finalist for the K-Speil (can never get the name for it right) along with Brugge and Legend of Andor (more on this one later)

I knew that there were going to be very few copies of this for sale at Gen Con and it was by K+K.
Enough for me to put down my coin.

But wow, this one caught me by surprise...

Thoughts

The mechanics of Palaces of Carrara are surprising simple.
You only have a choice of 1 of 3 actions on your turn.

a) Buy bricks from a wheel that determines the cost of each type of brick (white, yellow, red, blue, green, or black) before you purchase, the wheel containing the brick will turn lowering the cost of each brick on a particular segment. The price of the brick on each segment will will continue to drop as the wheel turns. New lots of brick randomly determined by pulling from a bag will become available each time the wheel turns and you make your selection from only one segment of the wheel. Some colors of brick become cheaper or free as the wheel turns enticing you to pick those cheaper bricks as money can be very tight during the game.
So do I wait for them to get cheaper later or will someone else pick up the color of brick I want before it gets back to me? The tension on what to pick up becomes almost palpable during some parts of the game.

b) Use the bricks you have acquired to build buildings in various cities on your player board. Certain cities will only accept certain colors of brick in making your buildings so your decisions here are critical to your success.

c) Call the King to visit your buildings and score money and or victory points depending on the level of buildings you have built. You only can have the King visit a maximum of 6 times during the game.

That's it.

Your turn will always consist of one of those 3 actions, but the way the whole game interlocks and moves is buttery smooth.

Just a fantastic well oiled machine of a game.
They whole game only takes about 45 minutes to an hour and everyone is totally engaged the whole time.

Everyone I know that played it loved it and thought it was one of the best if not the best game of the show.

At least 3 of my friends ran to Z-Man to purchase Palaces after a single play.

Plays up to 4, but played great with all number of players.
Wonderful to see a game that played as well with 2 as it did with more.

Unfortunately, Z-Man ran out, but a buddy of mine said I should tell Zev that he had at least 4-5 more pre-orders for when this hits wider distribution in the U.S.

Final note on Palaces: When you open the box (Oooooo fresh game smell) you will find an envelope that says, "Warning do not open this envelope until you have played Palaces of Carrara a few times..."
Ignore that - the envelope contains some additional items for the game like, size eight brick buildings, upgrades for cities, and a deck of cards that allow you to randomize the objectives to complete the game.

If you are a gamer at all, jump right in. These pieces really take the game to it's full potential and adds very little difficulty to playing.
In fact, not playing with these items makes Palaces too simplistic. Trust me, you are going to be just fine.

If this sort of game interests you at all, I can not recommend Palaces of Carrara highly enough.

I played it 5 times at the convention and I can not wait to play it again.

The official McGuit Game of Show Award!


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5. Board Game: Parade [Average Rating:6.94 Overall Rank:705]
J. David Koch
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Of course I had to pick this up (in fact got an extra since this is going to see a lot of play with my family)

This is the new Z-Man version with wonderful art by Chris Quillims and superb linen cards.

Thoughts

For those of you that have never heard of this game, it is a classic and I'm glad to see it back.
You have 66 cards in 6 suits numbered 0-10. To start you lay out 6 cards to form a tableau. When it is your turn, you play one of the five cards in your hand to the end of the parade.
You then count in from right to left the number of the card you just played. If you hit the end of the parade without landing on a card, you are just fine and the next player goes. However, if and your card number is not higher than that card, you have to take that card and all similarly colored cards down in front of you.
You do this until someone either gets at least one card of each color in front to them or the deck runs out.
Then you check to see if you have the most of a color, if so, then each of those cards counts as -1 each. If not, you add the total number of each card and that is your score. Low score wins.

Sounds simple, but it does have think in it.
So, light breezy card game with some strategy.
You can teach it in less than 3 minutes even to a non-gamer and they will get it right away.
Good game to play when the neighbors come over as it really does not overstay it's welcome.
The designer is Noaki Homma. The same guy that invented Fairy Tale so it comes with a pretty good pedigree.
And again the new art is just stunning.
If you have not heard of it, check it out.
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6. Board Game: Targi [Average Rating:7.61 Overall Rank:138]
J. David Koch
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I heard some good things about this one on BGG so I decided to snag a copy while at the booth.

Thoughts

Targi is from the Kosmos line and it is a good one.
It is a 2 player worker placement game based around gathering resources in order to purchase cards from your hand (or the game board) and place them in a tableau to generate victory points.

The game board is made from cards and with the exception of the border which is fixed, the cards on the inside are in a constant state of flux.

There is a wandering robber meeple that circles the board and tries to steal goods and money from you while he is making his rounds.

The game moves quickly and takes about 45 minutes to play. It has a wonderful sense of back and forth and although it is not asynchronous, you and your opponent will be looking for different items and cards to fill their tableau.

It is good, but I'm not sure that it is great. Only time will tell.
However the fact that it is 2 player only and plays quickly will allow it to hit the table more often with both the family and game group than other choices.

Besides how many other good 2 player worker placement games are there?
If you are at all interested, I suggest you stop by the Targi link here on BGG and check it out for yourself.
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7. Board Game: Suburbia [Average Rating:7.58 Overall Rank:99]
J. David Koch
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Next stop was the Bezier Games and a chance to snag Suburbia which has been out of stock at my FLGS for a long time.
Although I had not played it, many member of my game group whose opinions I respect (for those of you in said group who are reading this, I leave it to you as to who those folks are....)

Ted Alspach was there selling Suburbia along with a bundle for the upcoming Suburbia, Inc. for a discounted price.
Sold!
He was also kind enough to sign my game board for me (thanks Ted)

Also had the chance to see a prototype for the in development IoS version.
Good stuff. This will be another board game IoS conversion that I'll be picking up.

Thoughts


Had a chance to play this a couple of times during the convention and I'm really happy I picked it up.

At it's simplest form Suburbia is a tile placing game where you are trying to create the most efficient city using combinations of Suburbs, Parks, Factory, Industrial buildings, Office, and Retail building tiles.
Once you place a building it is there for the rest of the game so you have to plan wisely.
You buy these buildings from a market by paying both the cost of the building plus an up charge for where the market is on the futures track (from 0 to 10 dollars extra)
Buildings generate victory points and income. Some only count for buildings in your neighborhood, but some get a bump for tiles that not just you, but everyone else is building.
Money is tight (at least at the beginning) so you have to be careful about spending too much too early.
However, not all the tiles are used in every game, so it is possible that the building you are waiting for will never appear.

You also have to be careful about sprinting too far along the victory point track because every time you cross one of the red lines your reputation (VP generation) and income go back one space. There are some end game bonuses that are shared by all players (so they are visible) along with a hidden end game bonus that is exclusive to you.

What really amazed me about the design is that Ted obviously was very careful about where you build now and in the future. If you build an airport close to the suburbs, you reputation will go down. But, if you build multiple airports, your income will go up. Building a school next to the suburbs is a good thing for your reputation (VPs) so plan to leave a space there for later in the game.

Also, just about everything you need to know while playing is right there on the tiles, so once you get started, you know what benefits what.

It really feels like you are building a city and it all makes complete sense.

Finally the rule book and errata sheet are very well laid out and presented so that you can get your question answered right away.

Well done sir!

I'm really pumped now for the expansion so it can't get here soon enough.
Another excellent buy at Gen Con.

I'm on a roll here.




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8. Board Game: Trains [Average Rating:7.21 Overall Rank:390] [Average Rating:7.21 Unranked]
J. David Koch
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Next was the AEG booth to look at the new hotness, Trains.

Frankly, I'm starting to burn out on Dominion and the other deck builders just haven't done it for me (and wow aren't there a lot of them now.)

I've tried Ascension (prefer it on IoS) and DC and Thunderstone and on and on ad naseum. But everyone was talking this one up and of course it was going to sell out fast (did it? I don't even know)but my buddy Shea was suggesting (i.e. pushing) for me to get it.

Sidebar:
Me - Shea why don't you get a copy of it too.
Shea - Why would I Dave, I'll get yours when you trade it...(Oh, snap!)

But I was pretty much there anyway so it really did not take anything to push me over the edge. (Sigh, I'm such a "cult of the new" gamer.

Thoughts

Dominion, oh you bet.
In fact, at first blush I was surprised that Jay T. over at Rio Grande couldn't sue them for a blatant rip off (Hmmm, Train level 1 - Copper, Train level 2, Silver, etc. and the draw five play cards and throw the unused in your discard pile only to reshuffle them into your deck when you are out of cards) but I have to admit, it really is pretty cool.

The addition of the game board where you are building rails towards cities in order to build buildings and watch as everyone slowly spreads all over the map is really neat.
Plus, watching as waste starts to clog up your deck really does seem thematic.

Big plus, the cards and separators do fit in the box perfectly, even sleeved. Which brings me to my big pet peeve with the game.
Yes there are close to 600 cards in the box, but the cards are a strange size and the card quality leaves something to be desired.
They are extremely thin and due to the fact that this is a Dominion "type" game (Wow, I almost choked on that)which means constant shuffling the quality should be much better and this is not a cheap game to buy.

Seth (over at Mayday Games), Shea and I spent a lot of time trying to find the right size sleeves. When we found something that worked (not too tight, not too loose)after Seth cut me a deal I was down another $30.

I imagine it will see a lot of play, at least initially. But will it hold up. I guess only time will tell.

Who knows Shea may be right and down the road it may end up in his collection.

For me at this point, probably the only real questionable purchase at Gen Con.

Hope I'm wrong.

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9. Board Game: Legends of Andor [Average Rating:7.27 Overall Rank:305] [Average Rating:7.27 Unranked]
J. David Koch
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I've mentioned Rahdo a lot in this list and I guess I'm about to do it again. In his Brugge video review he mentioned that Brugge, Palaces of Carrara and this were the 3 finalists for the K-Speil (Glockenspeil? ) this last year and that of those games this one won.
I was intrigued.

Spent most of my career working in the computer games area and I've always been a big fan of good RPGs.

As an avid board gamer (with a Euro slant) I've searched in vain for a great RPG board game. Yes, I know there are a ton of them (don't have to tell you all other their names....you know what they are) but frankly they have always fallen short for me. And believe me, I've probably tried them all.
They were too long or too dense or too light or too hard to get to the table, etc. None of them really captured that sense of being in a RPG that I was really looking for.

I watched Rahdo's video review of Legends and he really surprised me when he said that out of all of the finalists at Essen, this was his favorite and the one that would have gotten his vote.
Really? More interested.

He said that he and his family played it a lot and they really got a lot of pleasure out of playing Andor.

When I did more investigation, I saw that it was a co-op so I found my interest cooling. But even though it was out of stock almost everywhere, it was going to be at Gen Con.

Thoughts


Most of the co-ops I've played (including Pandemic which is quite good)consists of one person really playing and pounding the others at the table to do what they wanted. Pretty soon that player is driving the other players in the game around the game like they are a bus.

Could someone create a co-op that was really that?
Short answer: yes.

Should not have been surprised when I opened the box and saw the number and quality of bits (Fantasy Flight after all). With the exception of the dice which were puny and ugly (Quickly alleviated that with a quick trip to the dealer hall in order to pimp out some better dice)everything there was top notch.

Sat down with Denise, Dave, and Jeff to play the game.
Now I had seen the video play through so I was pushing to jump past the introductory scenario (after all that is for newbies) and get into the first full game.
Denise had been talking to someone who had played before who said don't do that. Denise said, "See we should play the intro first."
End result: she (and he) were right. I'm telling you, don't skip the intro scenario. It teaches you how to play the game and introduces you to all the mechanics of play.

Here is your bottom line: Legends of Andor is a fantastic game!
Finally, the RPG I have been looking for all these years.

Even the intro scenario was great. We jumped in, learned the game and all of us had a lot of fun.
And what do you know, we all were a team, interacting from start to finish. There was back and forth, give and take and we were glued to the board for the whole time.
Yep, no one person was running the show. We had to work as a team. Each person had different abilities that were all very important. As the game timer was ticking down, we had to work together to use each of our characters to the fullest in order to beat the evil fill in the blank.
When the last moment came, we barely beat the game.We stopped. Looked at each other and everyone broke out into a big smile.
That was fun and looking at our watches realized that just 90 minutes had passed. Was everyone up to try the next scenario. Oh yeah....
After a quick bio break we broke open the next adventure and dove right in. Although we again played very well as a team, we got absolutely smoked and felt that again the time was well worth it and we had a great time.

Although we broke up at that point to play other things everyone said we would try that scenario again at a later time and the feedback was that this was a great addition to our gaming group library.

Finally, a Euro/RPG that works on all levels.
With a expansion due to hit American shores in the near future, I have a feeling Andor is going to get a lot of play down the road.
Well done Fantasy Flight.
And for me another great purchase at Gen Con.







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10. Board Game: Love Letter [Average Rating:7.27 Overall Rank:220]
J. David Koch
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One last run through the dealer hall to pick up last minute games before Gen Con was over.
Picked up the new version of "Love Letter" with the Japanese themed art (which frankly I'm not sure I like as much as the original version.) but it is nice to have another copy

Dropped back by AEG to get 2 copies of Straw

Which is a pretty fun little card game which will go over well with the family. Basically, try to add weight to the other players camels while trying to keep weight off of yours.
You know, try to use the last straw to break the camels back.

A copy of Chickyboom

to add to the grand-kids library at home.

And a copy of HeartSwitch

which plays a lot like Hearts but there are some additional cards that act as "stingers" by changing the rules up (card to nullify getting the Queen of Spades, Null cards that count as nothing, etc.)
Looks like fun.

Some custom meeples for my copy of "Glen Moore" (rocks, sheep, etc.)

Finally, some more "pimp" dice to bling out other games whose dice are not cutting it. Extra sleeves... and I am good to go.
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11. Board Game: End of the Line [Average Rating:5.85 Unranked]
J. David Koch
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And with that...the party is over and another Gen Con comes to an end.

Some general thoughts on the convention this year.

Well as usual, it was a lot of fun.
Nothing is better than spending time with friends both old and new while putting work and other responsibilities on hold for a little while.

I really feel like I did very well this year in terms of purchases.
Every game I got this year was good

Some were very good:

Rialto


Bruges


Some were great:

Suburbia


Legends of Andor


And one that was truly fantastic!

The Palaces of Carrara


I'm sure all of these will see a permanent spot in my collection for years to come.

Thank you for sticking through this whole list.
Hope it was worth your time.

If you ever get the chance to come to Gen Con, look me up and let's play a game.









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