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Nerds on Earth’s Highlights of Gen Con 2019

The Gaming Library space is MASSIVE.

Coming home after being away at a convention is always a bittersweet feeling. On one hand, you’re leaving the joys of perpetual gaming behind. On the other hand, you’re also exhausted from traveling and the aforementioned perpetual gaming.

There’s no way I can mention all of the awesome things from Gen Con this year, but I would be doing a disservice if I didn’t at least attempt an article for y’all. So here it goes, my thoughts about Gen Con 2019!

Demoing New and Upcoming Games

This is the main reason for attending Gen Con for me. With the sheer number of game releases each year, it’s impossible to stay on top of them all. According to retailer estimates, you’d have to play more than 80 hours per week to stay current on board game releases, and that’s using a conservative estimate of one hour per game.

Looking back at my Gen Con Preview article, I tried to at least watch demos of the games on my list. Here’s the quick elevator-pitch rundown on the ones I witnessed:

Oceans was right at home amongst the other games in the Evolution series, and was just as gorgeous in person. There were always two tables of demos going on at once.

I didn’t get to see any Black Angel gameplay, but there was a definitive hype around the game everywhere I turned. One person on my elevator said that it was “absolutely amazing”, so I have it on good authority that you should check it out.

Of all the games on my list, Point Salad was the only one that I ended up purchasing (only because I Kickstarted PARKS already). This game is legit! You can teach it in under ten minutes, and play a round just as quickly. The variable scoring conditions are a true star alongside the card-drafting mechanics.

And then there’s Era: Medieval Age! These tables were PACKED for the entirety of the convention, which bodes really well for the release. People really enjoyed the construction of their own medieval city, which was displayed impressively on each player’s canvas.

Our demo of LANDER was exceptional. Space games are all the rage right now, but this one had some unique mechanics that helps set it apart from the rest. Inspired by Catan, LANDER fixes my main qualms with player negotiations, and introduces fun exploration mechanics as the players try to gain a profitable foothold in humanity’s new colony. Keep your eyes peeled for demos happening at game stores near you, and watch for the Kickstarter coming next year. 

Games Library

Every year, Gen Con is home to a massive games library where people can sign up for slots to have access to a staggering number of titles. It’s a fantastic way to test drive hard-to-find games or try out less-new games that you’re on the fence about purchasing.

We took a break halfway through, but we ended up playing multiple rounds of Tsuro, a game of Fireball Island, and a single race around the island in Jamaica. This is definitely the place to go if you just want to crush a bunch of games without worrying about bringing a bunch on your trip.

Live Shows

Because of the monumental scale of Gen Con, numerous podcasts, gaming groups, and popular streamers will have live shows nearby. Critical Role is arguably the most popular tabletop web series on the planet, and their show alone helps drive up sales for the convention. I’m not a close follower of that particular IP, but there was an abundance of cosplayers paying homage to the brand.

I attended both live shows for the Glass Cannon Podcast, a Pathfinder actual play podcast that runs through the Strange Aeons Adventure Path during their live shows. There’s something really special about watching a live performance of a podcast you love, surrounded by people who feel the exact same way. Gen Con amplifies that experience.

If you’re looking for an actual play podcast to listen to, I can’t recommend The Glass Cannon enough. Their flagship show is a playthrough of the Giantslayer Adventure Path, they have a playthrough of the Starfinder Dead Suns Adventure Path, as well as a third podcast for their Patreon subscribers. They’re great fun and you won’t be disappointed.

That being said, Gen Con has multitudes of live shows that you could attend, and there’s something for everyone. Even if your favorite gaming-centric group doesn’t have a live show, there’s a chance they might be doing a meet-and-greet you could attend. Or, if you’re lucky, maybe you’ll bump into them on the Exhibit Hall floor!

Marvel-Licensed Games

It seemed fitting for Marvel to get its own section, since we at Nerds on Earth are rabid for everything Marvel. From comics to movies to figures, Marvel holds a special place in our hearts. There were multiple Marvel games showcased at Gen Con, but I’m going to touch on my top three.

First up is Marvel Crisis Protocol, a miniatures game featuring classic superheroes from your favorite comics. Players assemble their own teams of heroes and pit them face-to-face against their opponent’s team. Teams get synergies and bonuses based on the heroes involved. For example, the Guardians of the Galaxy would get a bump when played together as a unit. Combine this with the excellent miniature quality, destructible terrain, and tokens, and this is going to be a smash hit.

Next on the list is Splendor. Wait! That’s not a Marvel game, Abram! 

Not yet at least.

On the slate for a Q1 2020 release is a Marvel-themed version of Splendor. I’ve always thought that a Marvel skin was a no-brainer for this gem-collecting game. The Infinity Stones are used to denote the various gems and there are some additional ‘Endgame’ rules with other minor tweaks to adjust the game. At its core, however, it’s the same Splendor that you know and love. There isn’t even a BoardGameGeek entry for this one yet!

For the third Marvel game, I finally picked up a game that’s been around since 2012 – Legendary: A Marvel Deck-Building Game. With numerous expansions, countless characters, and plenty of variant content that would get you to Planet Hulk and back, it’s been on my shortlist until now. If Marvel isn’t your thing, there are many reimplementations of the Legendary system by Upper Deck with different IPs, including the 007 version which released this year.

Running Pathfinder Society 

I really wanted to get out of my comfort zone this year, so I volunteered to run two blocks of Pathfinder Society Scenarios in the Sagamore Ballroom. For those of you unfamiliar, Paizo takes over the entire room with countless tables of players for the duration of the convention. Pathfinder and Starfinder games run around the clock.

And that’s how I spent the majority of Thursday running players through Pathfinder Society Scenario #10-16: What the Helms Hide. It’s an awesome scenario made up of four mini-quests that uncover some secrets about the mysterious group of leaders leaders of the Pathfinder Society. Intriguing!

It was an amazing experience. Between the two tables there were players with a wide range of tabletop gaming experience. Some had been playing for a significant part of their lives while others were sitting down for their very first game. Hopefully, judging by the smiles on their faces, there will be a second game for them in the near future.

I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t nervous about running games in a convention-setting. Even though I felt prepared with the material, I just wanted everyone to have an enjoyable time and kick-off Gen Con with some oomph! 

It didn’t take long for me to settle in and have a ton of fun with a fine complement of interesting characters. Everyone was really helpful to the new players as well, which was awesome to see. Plus, they all successfully completed the scenario! 

Paizo’s Pathfinder 2E Release

Keeping on the theme, Paizo’s release of Pathfinder: Second Edition was a smashing success. Every day, people flocked to the Paizo booth to pick up copies of the new, massive Core Rulebook. 

There was substantial buzz last year when Paizo did the Pathfinder Playtest to gain user feedback about the upcoming second edition, but this year took that buzz to a new level. You couldn’t walk ten feet without seeing a Pathfinder 2E shopping bag, which was awesome. 

Although I didn’t get in a 2E game, I have the core rulebook in hand and I’m slowly reading through it. The action economy is one of the most significant changes in the system, which opens up the battlefield and allows for more dynamic turns in combat. Additionally, spells have been revamped and cantrips scale with your level.

Despite the launch of 2E, there is still a boatload of content for First Edition, so you can enjoy the best of both worlds. In case you’re trying to decide on a 1E Adventure Path, Nerds on Earth has you covered with a comprehensive overview of each.

Parting Thoughts

They don’t call Gen Con the ‘best four days in gaming’ for nothing. Whether you’re into tabletop games, board games, live-action roleplay, amazing art, or cosplays, Gen Con is a place where gamers can get together and share their love for this awesome hobby. You’ll meet a lot of great people and have a blast.

Hopefully I’ll see you there next year! In the meantime, happy gaming!

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