My Zeroth Impressions of Gen Con 2018 Games
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I skim the rule books of Gen Con 2018 games, and tell you what my impressions of the game is, having only read the rule book and not having played the game.

1 DISCLAIMER: I make no claims of actually knowing how much I, let alone you might enjoy these games.
2 DISCLAIMER 2: I probably miss more intricate nuances of a game, due to skimming. On occasion, I may even make major rules mistakes.
3 My summaries are intentionally oversimplifications.
4 My gaming taste is roughly that of a thematic eurogamer. However, I also like dungeon crawls, and dislike Euros that feel like they are just jumbling mechanisms together just because they can. I also like to play games solo, and dislike party games. I like games of roughly medium weight, but there is a minimum of heaviness I will tolerate for a game, depending on length.

Past version:
My Zeroth Impressions of Essen 2017 Games
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1. Board Game: Maiden's Quest [Average Rating:7.60 Overall Rank:5321]
Rough Overview: Thematically, you are a maiden tired of waiting for someone to save you from a tower. The game simulates your own attempt to escape.

The game is played through a single deck of cards that combines the cards that represent you, as well as the obstacles you face. Each turn, you usually cycle through the deck of cards until you come across obstacle. Each obstacle has icon requirements in order to defeat it. You use the 5 cards in the deck following the obstacle, for their special powers and/or their icons to defeat the obstacle.

One of the major mechanisms of the game is the deck management from upgrading and downgrading of cards. Powers and rewards from defeating obstacles may allow you to upgrade your cards, by rotating them or flipping them over, in order for them to provide more icons/other special powers in the future. On the flip side, if you fail to defeat an obstacle or attempt to flee from one, your cards will downgrade. This downgrading is also the way to lose the game: some cards will force you to downgrade health icons, not only of the 5 cards following the obstacle, but having you search through your deck until you have eligible health icons to downgrade. If you ever fail to perform a health downgrade, your character is defeated and you lose the game.

As the game progresses, you will encounter harder and harder obstacles.

To win, you need to defeat an exit obstacle, or a captor obstacle.

Impression: I really hope the awfully written rulebook, which tells you all the details first before giving you the overview that allows you to frame how the game is played, and in general lacks diagrams to give clear explanations. This is the type of game that I think can have significant variance. If done right, it can be a very clever deck management game that requires you to consider things far down the road, in order to eventually build up the right icons. If done poorly, this can be a fiddly (because lots of card cycling), repetitive (same type of choice most turns), and abstract (since the basis for the game is just to get a bunch of likeminded icons).

The big selling point of this game appears to be it can be played with you just holding the cards in your hand.

I didn't really go too deep into reading the multiplayer rules, but it feels like this game was designed as solo foremost and the other modes of play are tacked on (e.g. in the cooperative version, the game starts out solo for the first couple of levels).

Conclusion: Pass, unless it gets a lot of positive buzz.
 
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2. Board Game: Evil High Priest [Average Rating:7.76 Unranked]
Rough Overview: You are an evil high priest trying to please the Great Old One the most, through a smattering of different worker placement mechanisms. Besides your typical place a worker to take an action, and blocking other people from taking an action, you have action spaces only your special high priest worker can perform, personal action spaces (except for one one-time use spot the same for all players), actions that lock out the worker who took that action for several turns (ala Tzolk'in, although the number of turns the worker is locked out is preset rather than of your choice), and a space that allows you to potentially use occupied spaces.

Action spaces allow you to gain storage space for resources, gain/convert resources (resources are mostly just for points), gain monsters (special abilities), and shatter elder signs (lots of points, + possibly open up new action spaces). Some shatter elder sign spaces also cause investigators to raid every player. When raided, you can first diffuse the raid that you are facing by sending your workers to the asylum (unusable, but you can take a special action and pay resources to retrieve them) and/or discard monsters to weaken the raid. If that does not reduce the raid strength to 0, you lose all your resources not in your storage spaces. You then go down your storage spaces in a predetermined order until the raid strength is 0, each storage space affected losing its resources but reducing the raid strength.

The game ends when all of the elder signs have been shattered, and then players score points based on your resources, especially the shattered elder signs.

There is some game variability of spaces available depending on which Great Old One you choose each game (moreso with expansion).


Impression: This seems to be foremost an efficiency engine rather than a thematic Cthulhu game, but an efficiency engine with a high degree of interaction. This is because you can try to trigger raids at times when your opponents have lots of unprotected or weakly protected resources. Overall, I think that your resources for the most part just kind of accumulate for points rather than doing anything removes the feel that you are actually accomplishing something meaningful. If you really like worker placement though, you might want to check this out.

Conclusion: Pass
 
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3. Board Game: Founders of Gloomhaven [Average Rating:7.02 Overall Rank:1436]
Rough Overview: In general, you are trying to build a network of different tiles on the board, with many tiles having prerequisites of needing other tiles in their network. You can either own the corresponding prerequisite tiles in the network, or gain access to your opponent's, but if you do so then you will have to dole out portions of points you gain from building the higher tier tile.

Each turn, you play one of your action cards to perform its corresponding action, and, in a Puerto Rico-esque fashion, other people have the option to perform a lesser version of your action, or take a "basic" action (e.g. gain money, perform special action of your race, build roads to expand the reach of one of your networks, etc.). The actions in general: gain new action cards, place tiles on the board, gain access to opposing tiles, or reclaim cards.

When a player reclaims cards, all other players gain income equal to the number of different type of tiles they own. Then, players vote on one of 3 "prestige buildings" to be built (with some action cards giving you extra, temporary votes). These prestige buildings show a variety of different tiles that, if connected to the prestige building, gives the owner of the different tile points.

The game ends once 6 prestige buildings have been "completed" by having their corresponding depicted tiles connected to them.

Impression: This is definitely only related to Gloomhaven in name and in universe setting. Instead, it reminds me kind of like Tigris & Euphrates, but a more modern euro T&E,in that there are a lot more levers, for better or for worse. Personally I think the elegance of T&E allows its relative abstract mechanisms to not obscure the theme. While there are more elements that should make Founders of Gloomhaven more thematic, it may be buried under the multitude of mechanisms.

If you haven't played T&E, I would say think of this as like a tile placement/area influence game where actions are limited, timing really matters, and the other player's tiles near you can both be beneficial and detrimental in different ways.

I think the solo version of this game would be lacking, as it is basically a race to trigger the normal game end condition after 7 reclaims, with none of the area influence and action selection interaction considerations in a multiplayer game. During reclaim, rather than having a vote for which prestige building is placed, you simply have to spend voting tokens depending on which prestige building you select.

Conclusion: Want to try
 
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4. Board Game: Master of the Galaxy [Average Rating:7.27 Overall Rank:4330]
Rough Overview: This is an area control bag and tableau builder, sort of. Apparently, you rarely cycle through your bag. To win, you need fulfill one of the following: place all 9 of your bases on the board, have 5 supremacy icons of any single color (from cards, or from placing bases on certain areas of the map), or place in an opponent's starting space. Each turn, you draw 3 cubes, and assign the cubes to your tableau of cards, to planets adjacent to your bases (which gains you more cubes of that color to your bag, and possible draw more cards to add to your tableau), or to start creating routes to other systems on the board. Cubes on cards allow you to build more bases, place your bases, gain abilities, or gain supremacy icons. In general, most cards and routes will take multiple turns to complete, and have different cube color requirements.

Conflict is done through a special type of card, where you assign to another player who you have a base connected to by routes. Each conflict card has 2 slots depicting cube requirements, and players on either side of the conflict can place cubes in their respective slot. During the conflict, having more cubes than your opponent gives you temporary supremacy icons. If you completely fill your slot, you destroy you opponent's base, and, if you have a base built but not placed on the board, may place one of your bases to replace.


Impression: The different things you can do based on having different cards has me intrigued, as well as the possibility of a bag builder that has more 4X elements than Hyperborea. I'm a little concerned though that it will feel like everything happens really slowly as it seems like it takes multiple turns of cubes to perform most actions, and if the no-cycle bag building will, like Hyperborea but for a different reason, feel off.

I'm also a little concerned over whether or not there is enough in this game to prevent some games from becoming a stalemate, or whether the supremacy icons are generally easy enough to get/people will not go into conflict with you unless they can place their own base, which would limit the times in the game where the number of bases decreases.

The rulebook for this is pretty disorganized, referencing things before actually explaining what they do.

Conclusion: Want to try
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5. Board Game: Rise of Tribes [Average Rating:7.51 Overall Rank:1238]
Rough Overview: Players are different tribes trying to get points from building villages and completing achievements, with the first player to 15 points automatically winning. On your turn, you first get 1 point for every village you have. You then choose from one of 4 actions: Add tribe members to tile spaces you occupy, move your tribe members to different tiles, gather resources from the spaces your tribe members occupy, or draw goal cards. Afterwards, if a tile has 5 or more tribe members among all players, players will take turns removing one tribe member at a time, to simulate a conflict, until only one player remain. Then, the player can build villages by paying resources, may also build "development" type goal cards (giving enhancements to their actions, and/or points), and might automatically complete some "achievement" type goal cards (gives points if you complete the achievement).

There is a dice mechanic that can strengthen or weaken certain actions at times, or trigger events.

There are also "advanced" variants (which I assume you would want to always play with after your first game, if not also in your first game), that gives players a special power, and makes the different types of tiles more interesting.

Impression: I'm still not convinced about the dice mechanism, as while I think it adds a tactical aspect, I don't know if it is worth the fiddliness. However, I think the different special powers and map arrangements will give this game good replayability, and while its mechanisms are very basic, for a 30-60 minute game that is ok, and anyways it is not entirely derivative. I think it could do well to fulfill a gateway game niche.

Conclusion: Want to try, have hopes I'll like it enough to buy.
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6. Board Game: The Tea Dragon Society Card Game [Average Rating:6.48 Overall Rank:5883]
Rough Overview: This is basically a really light deckbuilder, except, you do not discard your hand/draw new cards at the end of your turn. Instead, on your turn, you either draw 1 card, or buy a card, with bought cards often giving you points. From a dynamic buy row (like Star Realms, Ascension, etc.). There is also another buy row called the "memory tableau" that doesn't get replenished when bought, and if a certain number are bought you move onto the next "season", replacing the cards in the memory tableau. Once all 4 seasons are over, the game ends, and whoever has the most points from bought cards wins.

Impression: It doesn't seem particularly innovative. It seems really light. Some very specific effects of different things happening if you have a specific effect makes me worried about balance. And yet I want to try it because how cute the artwork is.

Conclusion: Want to try, but moreso for the novelty and cause I really like deckbuilders.
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7. Board Game: Temporal Odyssey [Average Rating:7.09 Overall Rank:6740]
Rough Overview: It's like Magic, except rather than lands there is an action point allowance mechanism, defenders don't deal back damage, there is a limited number of points worth of units you can field at a time, everything has the Trample keyword, and there are possibly more tactical decisions.

If you've never played Magic, basically you are trying to reduce your opponent's life down to 0 through your unique deck of cards. On your turn, you draw a card, and then have 4 action points to spend. For the most part, you will spend action points to play cards, declare an attack, or use abilities. Cards come in the form of units, terrain (passive global effects), spells (one time use or persistent effects), and enhancements for your units.

Your units have attack, defense, hp, supply points stats, as well as possible abilities. You can only field 4 supply points worth of units at a time. When attacking, your opponent can choose which of their units to defend with, or can take the damage directly. If a unit defends, it takes damage equal to the difference betweem your attack and their defense. If the defending unit is defeated, any overkill damage is assigned to your opponent, and the attacking unit gets XP based on what unit it defeats (your current terrain card details what the XP does for your unit).

There are a lot of preset decks listed, but presimably the game is intended for you to build your own deck as well.


Impression: Like most Level 99 hallmark games, this seems like it will be a fairly deep, and fairly assymetrical yet reasonably balanced game, that has a steep mastery curve that will make a game between an expert and beginner potentially feel boring.

An interesting aspect that is also present in a different form in Magic is that you can possibly react to your opponent's attacks with instant counteractions, but to do so requires you not spending some action points on your turn, at the risk of wasting them.

Unlike Magic, it doesn't seem like you can get landlocked, as at the start of the game you select 4 units, an enhancement for each, as well as a terrain card to put into play immediately.

This seems designs foremost as a 2 player only game.

Want to try: Want to try. Feel like I would like this game, but would have no one to play it with.
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