Visiting GenGen Con 2022 was like going back to my roots. I’ve made some great friends over the past nearly two decades of attending the Super Bowl of board gaming. It was completely unacceptable to let two years pass without recommitting to those connections. After this year’s expo hall closed, we weren’t in the mood to play the newest Euro-style game, campaign-in-a-box, or massive, overarching Ameritrash strategy game. We were just looking to have some fun, and the variety of new games available fit the bill perfectly.
I found the best games at this year’s Gen Con to be the silliest, silliest things possible. More than anything else, though, this year’s best games — including the one that may be my personal best game — were chaotic.
PSYCHIC PIZZA DELIVERERS GO TO THE GHOST TOWN
Clairvoyant Pizza Takeout Drivers Hidden-object fun for three to five players: that’s Go to the Ghost Town. Keep in mind that I didn’t say covert action, in the sense of, for example, Nuns on the Run, Last Friday, Letters to Whitechapel, or Specter Ops. Each player in this game will be given a large laminated grid and a dry-erase marker. The citizens of Ghost Town are counting on you to find and deliver a pizza to them.
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Which pizza toppings do people at each residence prefer? Until you find a pizza and use your psychic abilities to determine where it belongs, you won’t know. The idea is as ridiculous as the name, especially when you discover a teleport space by accident and have to redo your Zork-style mapmaking from the beginning.
Boop, the newest release from Smirk & Laughter Games, is a charming little box game designed by Scott Brady. Toy wooden cat meeples and a cuddly blanket are inside. Flip the box inside out, place the comforter on top, and boop your opponents in this match-three meets area-control disaster.
CAT IN THE BOX
Like Hearts, Spades, Euchre, and Pinochle, Cat in the Box is a trick-taking card game. The objective of this card game is to amass the largest possible hand by playing the highest card of each suit. Here’s the catch: every card is black. The game is played on a two-sided board, with each player using a separate token to indicate the suit of the card they are playing. Creating a paradox and losing all of your points results from violating the logic of the board you’re making if you can’t play a colour or number of a card that’s missing, for example. It’s a complex version of the classic “screw your neighbour” game, but it plays quickly and lightly.
When I unpack a board game, the punchboard is the first thing I toss. Sand timers, if present, are the second item I toss. The pressure of that has never added anything enjoyable to any game I’ve ever played, with the exception of Kites. Some of the timers are set for 30 seconds, while others are set for 1 minute and 30 seconds.Players take it in turns playing cards whose values match those of the timers, working together to keep their “kites” aloft until the sand runs out. Total anarchy, again, but a fun way to get everyone’s blood pumping before a night of board games.
READY SET BET
I was fortunate enough to have Ruel Gaviola, who consulted on the design of AEG’s Ready Set Bet and provided voiceover work for the companion app, give me a demo of the product in front of a group of influential people.
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It’s common knowledge that Academy Games creates some of the most sophisticated historical simulations and strategy games around. Gunter Eickert’s Stellaris: Infinite Legacy, which I’ve been eagerly awaiting, has been making great progress. However, Reality Shift really caught my attention because of its clear nods to the iconic lightcycle racing scene from Tron. Only this time the track is dynamic, with rotating and pivoting cubes. Nothing says “I’ve made it in life” like bringing turn four crashing down on the back straightaway, derezzing your opponent, and sending them back to the starting line. There’s a special deluxe edition, and you can play by your own set of rules if you want to add in things like shells, bananas, and more from Mario Kart.
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