What I hope to see at GenCon 2011

I’ll be heading to GenCon this year!  Only for one day (Saturday) but I’m hoping to take in as much as I can.  I haven’t been since the last couple of years it was in Milwaukee. I wasn’t even into board games then, nor was the hobby in the heyday it is now.  Needless to say I’m quite excited to see what the show is like these days.  Here’s a quick rundown of what I’m hoping to see:

Runewars: Banners of War – It’s clear I love Runewars and I’ve been waiting for an expansion for awhile. While it doesn’t offer more races as I hoped, the pieces it does add look really interesting.  Here’s to hoping they are running demos as I’d love to see it in action.

Rune Age – Deck building may be getting a little played out and I have yet to find a game that does it as well as Dominion.  Still, Rune Age looks to add some interesting new mechanics to the table, including the potential for cooperative play.  Would love to give this a trial run and maybe pick up a copy if they have any for sale.

Ventura – Not surprisingly, Fantasy Flight is dominating my list!  Ventura looks like a Euro-style war game with a modular board… could be right up my alley.  The rules have been posted but I’d love to see it in action.  Easily an impulse purchase if they have it for sale.

Dungeon Run – Looks like Cutthroat Caverns with a board.  I’m in.

Olympos – Another Civ-style game, this time by Vinci and Small World designer Philippe Keyaerts.  I don’t know if this will actually be at the show but I’m hoping to catch a glimpse.

Blood Bowl Team Manager – This started its life as a deck building game but looks like it may have morphed into something fairly unique.  Love the Blood Bowl theme.

Elder Sign – Arkham Horror is a game I really want to love but have mixed feelings on.  The setting is great, though, and Elder Sign takes Cthulhu into the realm of dice games.  It’s designed by both Richard Launius and Kevin Wilson, so that alone has me intrigued!

Quarriors – Have I mentioned I love dice?  Quarriors comes with 130 dice; it may be worth purchasing for that reason alone.  It’s also a deck building style game with dice instead of cards.  Certainly worth checking out.

Ninjato – Ninjas.  Brought to you by CrossCut games, the folks behind Galactic Emperor.  That’s enough to make me seek it out at the show.

Geek Chic – I simply can’t wait to see their gaming tables in person.  At the same time I’m extremely afraid as I know it’ll only further my insatiable lust for a gaming table I really can’t (or shouldn’t) afford right now.

I’ll be sure to report back with what I get a chance to see and maybe even get some hands-on time with!

7 Wonders

Image by a_traveler

Flexibility can be a very important factor to look for in a board game.  Britannia is one of my favorite games, for example, but you need four players with four to six hours to get through a game.  It is seriously fun but tough to pull out on a regular basis.  As much as we love our epic games there is something to be said for a game that we can table up no matter how much time we have or how many people show up for games that night.

Which is why 7 Wonders is such a brilliant game.  It’s difficult to find a game that supports and plays well with a wide number of players, but 7 Wonders plays from three to seven without batting an eye or even really increasing play time.  It’s fast, easy and seriously fun.

7 Wonders is essentially a card drafting game that takes place over three rounds.  You are dealt a hand of seven cards, pick one to play and pass the rest.  Continue until the sixth card is played, discard the seventh, dealt out cards for the next round and so on.  Cards do a variety of different things, but generally they all serve to either make it easier for you play cards down later or earn you victory points at the end of the game.

Each player has a wonder they may construct.  Instead of playing a card from their hand that round they may instead choose to use one of those cards to build a stage of their wonder.  Each wonder provides different abilities was you construct them, which may help focus your strategy and adds more replay value as you try out all the different wonders.

Image by Fran Moli

There are really two things that make 7 Wonders work so well:

+ Long-Term Planning: A game of 7 Wonders takes place over three ages, each with a new set of cards.  Some cards, when built, make other cards free to play.  It is very satisfying when you are working towards a given strategy and get those freebies built.  You are getting a new hand passed to you each time you play a card so you never know for certain what will make it around to you.  I find the balance between long-term planning and dealing with what is handed to you extremely satisfying.

+ Limited Player Interaction: It’s not often you see me consider limited player interaction a good thing in a board game, but it really is central to why 7 Wonders scales so well.  You are always passing cards, purchasing resources and fighting against your immediate neighbors.  If you are playing with three or with seven, it really doesn’t matter much as you only really have to worry about two people at the table.

It also affects card drafting.  When I get my hand, I need to not only think about how I can best put those cards to use but must also consider what cards I’m passing along.  If there a card in my hand that is worth a lot of points to my neighbor, I may consider using that to build my wonder or discarding it for cash instead of playing something else I could use.

There’s really only one thing I can fault 7 Wonders for:

– Confusing Iconography: Most cards have icons indicating what they bestow upon you once played.  Unfortunately the icons can be confusing at first, especially given some of the mechanics.  For example, any time you see a money icon you earn that money immediately, but victory points are always tallied at the end of the game.  There are a few cards that do both and it always takes new players awhile to remember how those two differ.  They also changed the symbols a bit from the first and second edition and I feel like they’ve actually made them worse.

Image by henk.rolleman

That’s a very small blemish on what is an otherwise outstanding game.  Your first time playing will very much be a learning game.  Yes, it’s simple to learn the basics but difficult to see how your early choices impact the game later.  With its fast playing time, though (easily under a half hour once everyone knows how to play), people are almost guaranteed to be asking to play again right away!

If you can, get yourself a copy of 7 Wonders.  The price may seem a little steep for what is basically three decks of cards but I promise you’ll  get your money’s worth in plays.  It is easily one of my favorite games in the past few years and is one we can table up any game night no matter who shows up!