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My 7 Most Anticipated Board Game Releases from GenCon 2014

Board games are BLOWING UP.

In a world where everything is digital, more and more people are digging the tactile cardboard and face-to-face interaction that comes with board gaming. There are dozens of great board game conventions, many of them chill events where a few hundred gamers who will get to together to simply play games all day and all night.

But GenCon is the one convention to rule them all when it comes to board games. GenCon is buzz and spectacle, where over 10,000 board gamers gather together to check out the newest releases. Not even including expansions, it’s estimated that 300+ new board games will be released at GenCon 2014.

Here are the 7 board game releases from GenCon 2014 that I’m most stoked about:

 

Dead of Winter

Dead of WinterEarth needs new editions to the zombie genre like it needs another season of The Bachelor. But Plaid Hat Games has the game with the most buzz as early platesetters are raving about Dead of Winter. Dead of Winter is a co-op game about a group of survivors trying to survive a zombie apocalypse during the cold, cold winter months.

The beauty of the game is the Crossroads card, a series of if/then scenarios that give the game a wonderful amount of flavor and drama. I pre-ordered it and it landed on my doorstep today. I couldn’t be more excited to punch out a batch of cardboard zombie standees and look forward to playing it this weekend. Anyone want to bring some Archer Farms or Kirkland branded snacks and come over?

 

Hyperborea

HyperboreaI want to be careful that I don’t get so flowery with my praise that I turn this game into HYPE-o-borea (ha! total dad joke!), but there is a lot to be excited about this one. Hyperborea is a civilization city building game. Your quest is to build your mythical nation into the greatest empire the world has seen. That certainly sounds easy enough. Actions include capturing land, defeat monsters, and discovering new technologies.

The cool thing is that Hyperborea uses an all-new “bag-building” mechanic. During the game you fill your bag with cubes of different colors. Each color is related to a specific aspect of your civilization: blue for science, yellow for trade, orange for progress, purple for growth, red for warfare and green exploration. Every turn you use cubes to activate technologies and draw 3 new ones.

You’ll be able to play shorter (60-90 minutes) or longer (2-3 hours) games changing the end-game conditions, and there will be also special scenarios available on the official web-site once the game is released.

 

Samurai Spirit

samurai spiritAntoine Bauza is the level 18 wizard of board game designers. If he releases something, I’m paying attention. If he releases something about Samurai warriors, then you’ll need to help me up off the fainting couch, because I do say, I’ll be overcome by the vapors.

Samurai Spirit is a co-op game (and I LOVE co-op games) where you and your fellow samurai companions are the only standing obstacle between one frightened village and a full horde of blood-thirsty villains.

Each player is a fierce samurai defending a village surrounded by a horde of bandits. The game plays out over three turns during which each player takes turns drawing bandit cards, then choosing whether they want to fight the bandit, defend the village, or let the bandit pass in order to help the other samurai.

I predict that I will always choose to fight the bandit every single time. I mean, if I’m playing as a samurai, why wouldn’t I choose to fight every single time?

 

The Witcher Adventure

witcherIf Bauza is the level 18 wizard of game designers, then Ignacy Trzewiczek is the level 13 alchemist that keeps turing cardboard into gold, as evidenced by his hit of GenCon 2013, Robinson Crusoe.

The Witcher Adventure Game takes players on a journey across the world of The Witcher, a detailed world with cool characters, fleshed out by Andrzej Sapkowski’s famous series of novels, and honed by The Witcher video game trilogy.

Players will take on the roles of characters from the Witcher universe and travel through dangerous wilderness, battle monsters, complete quests, and earn gold as you craft a narrative that is unique to each game. Play as Triss Merigold, the cunning sorceress, or Dandelion, the roguish bard. Take on the role of Yarpen Zigrin, dwarven warrior, and command your own fellowship of dwarves. Or, play as Geralt of Rivia, the titular Witcher, and use your skills to slay fearsome monsters.

The world needs more fantasy settings just as much as they need more from the zombie genre, but darned if I ain’t a sucker for that stuff if it’s done well. Witcher looks like it’s done very well, so sign me up for the adventuring party.

 

Skull and Shackles

skull and shacklesI regularly play the Pathfinder Adventure Game as it works great to solo and I don’t have a regular gaming group. That’s why I’m excited about the follow-up: Skull and Shackles.

Skull and Shackles is a stand-alone base set that works independently from the other Pathfinder Adventure Card Game base set, Rise of the Runelords, but the chards and characters can be used interchangeably. As a result, you get fresh gameplay, but you also have the opportunity to take your existing characters through new adventures.

Skull and Shackles is pirate themed, drawing from Paizo’s Adventure Path of the same name. I’m not a total fanboy when it comes to pirates, but I’m always game for a swashbuckling adventure, and with the introduction of new ship and plunder mechanics, that’s exactly what it looks like Skull and Shackles will offer.

I’ll be first on the poop deck for this one. (That sounded weirder than I wanted it to. Not gonna change it though.)

 

D&D Player’s Guide

d&d player's handbookGranted, this blurs the line for this list, as this is a RPG and not a board game, but it would be irresponsible to not mention D&D and the impact of it’s release. And this is the internet, so there is NEVER anything irresponsible written on the internet. Ahem.

Anyway, I’ve written about the new D&D Starter Set here, so I won’t spend a ton of time on it, but I need to say a little something. This is the Player’s Handbook, man. The Player’s Handbook!

Not only will we get the first official look at the full rules and spell lists for the new D&D 5e system, but we finally get full character generation. The previously released basic Rules and the Starter Set whet our appetite, now we finally get the opportunity to really dive in.

 

Abyss

abyssLook at that box cover man.

Look at it!

Look it square in the eye and tell me that is not one grade A bad A of an underwater creature race type guy.

The toughie on that box cover is one of five underwater races vying for power in the Abyss, and darned if I’m not excited to give this game a play.

Players will try to take control of strategic locations in an underwater city by collecting allies, then using them to recruit Lords of the Abyss, who will then grant access to different parts of the city. Pearls are the currency in this game, which is a really cool touch, but I have to say that I don’t really care how it’s played – the artwork has pulled me in (to the depths!).

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There you have it, 7 new new release board games that are scheduled to drop at GenCon 2014. Sadly, I have elementary age children, so I never leave my house and won’t be going to GenCon this year, but I be following these game releases closely. Stay tuned for an update.