GEN CON 2013: Game Demos
A late entry from Gen Con outlines a variety of different games playtested and observed. From miniature wargames to high pulp adventure, any genre is playable at Gen Con. Our man’s impressions are below.
Apologies for the belatedness of this post, dear readers, but I neglected to practice proper con prophylactic measures. Bomb that vitamin C to prevent con crud and cosplay as a gas mask-wearing, zombie-hunting survivalist is my advice.
In any event, one of the most fun aspects of Gen Con is the opportunity to try out any number of games under the tutelage of gaming company professionals. I was able to demo five games this year, and my impressions and photos are below. There wasn’t a dud in the bunch, I’m pleased to report.
The seminal franken-anime is getting a tactical miniatures wargame this winter. Focusing on units from the Macross Saga, Robotech RPG Tactics pits the transforming giant robot/jet fighters of the Robotech Defense Force against the battlepods of the giant humanoid alien Zentraedi. The game is built around a “command point” system, used to apportion moves to individual units. This reminded me somewhat of a similar game mechanic found in Horde/Warmachine. What interested me the most about Robotech RPG Tactics was the flexibility provided by the transformable Veritechs; different modes allowed for different movement and weapons profiles. By comparison, the Zentraedi battlepods were extremely fragile but balanced out by group attack mechanics that increased their strength through numbers. The model sculpts were beautiful, though it looks like players will need to paint their own pieces.
Wings of Glory is another miniature wargame, but based on real-world airplanes from the First and Second World Wars (with slightly different rule sets for both). The play was reminiscent of the X-Wing miniatures game (a great game which I am very familiar with), which Wings of Glory actually pre-dates. The way gameplay works is that players secretly lay out a series of maneuvers, which are then resolved simultaneously. This requires players to predict each other moves, and tends to generate pleasing turning battles that resemble a simplified version of actual dogfighting. Each airplane has different movement characteristics according to its real-world characteristics, which is great fun for air power geeks like me. I had the opportunity to play out a three-way battle between a SPAD, a Sopwith and a Fokker tri-plane, and I was impressed by the wide variety of aircraft available for purchase. Relatively simple to play, this game seems to have deep possibilities.
The host from Catalyst describes Balance of Power as “Risk meets Diplomacy” and that’s really the best description I can muster. The gameboard presents a set-up of 1800s Europe with a few adjacent bits of North Africa thrown in for good measure. There are three units: kings, generals, and bankers, which interact with a rock/paper/scissors dynamic. Players don’t start with anywhere near enough of these units to cover their borders, and that’s where diplomacy becomes incredibly important to survival. Unlike Risk, there are no random dice rolls to mess up a player’s grand master plan. The goal is to accrue a certain number of points by asserting control over various European states, with all the usual suspects (Russia, Prussia, England, France, the Ottomans) as playable entities.
Confrontation reminded me of nothing so much as Stratego (which is a good thing). As in Stratego, opposing players (representing either the Fellowship or Sauron) set up their units in secret, with blank sides facing the enemy so as to obscure the identities of individual units. So part of the fun is in the initial set-up, as well as trying to suss out where your opponent has placed particular units. Confrontation deepens the gameplay by matching the units to the characters from the stories, giving them unique abilities. So Boromir can sacrifice himself to take out an enemy, the Balrog gains an advantage in Moria and Samwise is pudgy. Players can also play cards to pump up their units in combat or do something unexpected. The map also simulates the Lord of the Rings world, with story appropriate movement restrictions. This is the sort of game that seems easy to pick up, but should be quite fun.
Fortune and Glory most be the pulpiest game of all time, forcing players to hunt treasures while dealing with plane, car and boat chases, sharks (oddly in Siberia, in my playthrough), and a zeppelin full of Nazis, amongst other terrors. There are two modes of play, co-operative or competitive, and my group played the latter. You play as one of any number of interesting pulp archetype heroes; there are super-scientists, big game hunters, mercenaries, mechanics, femme fatales and more. The players move around the map in pursuit of amusingly named artifacts, accruing glory (which basically works as currency) and fortune (which are victory points). Encounters with artifacts require players to pass a number of skill challenges, with failure resulting in a “cliffhanger,” in a nod to the inspirational material. The Fortune and Glory base set is rather pricey (around $100), but the quality of the goods is nice and it was a well put together, thought out game. Flying Frog had a few of the photography subjects for the characters demoing the games, which was a nice touch. Shout out to Angel Espinoza and Grant Jackson!
Were you at Gen Con? Did you demo any good games? Let us know in the comments section below.