Going Analog

Where video game industry veterans introduce great board games to video gamers

Gen Con 2017: The Games of the Show

Our picks for the best of the best from the big convention

This past August, tabletop game publishers from around the world descended on Gen Con 50 like incorporated drug dealers, dishing out samples of Pandemic this, Catan that, for four solid days. And tens of thousands of gamers from around the world showed up and paid for the privilege of being marketed and sold to by these companies. That’s a lot of people chasing that next gaming high. What’s the draw? At North America’s largest tabletop gaming convention, fans can:

  • Buy games that aren’t out in stores yet
  • Preview games that won’t be out for months or even years
  • Get exclusive promotional material unavailable anywhere else
  • Or just sample a little bit of a lot, even if they can’t afford to take it all home with them

Going Analog was there. And not even 24 hours after we left, we started missing it already. We no longer ask if we’re going next year; that’s just assumed now.
Here are our co-hosts’ faves of the show. (Make sure to check out our Facebook or Twitter feeds for a ton of photos from the event.)

Shoe's Game of the Show:
Princess Jing (publisher: Matagot)
Shoe: I hate calling anything “of the show” since I probably played about 40 demos out of several million. But from my limited sampling, Princess Jing was the most memorable. It’s a head-to-head, Stratego-like game where you must get your princess to escape through a specific exit on the opposite side of the board.
The catch: Your opponent can’t see your characters, which are all facing you. So you can keep the location of the princess and her animal friends (which show which exit is your true goal) hidden.
The double-catch: Each player also has two characters that hold up mirrors (like, literal shiny mirrors). So if either of those gets moved to the right spot, they can reveal what the opponent is hiding.
What a clever gimmick. I can’t wait for this game to come out in a few months.

Shoe's Honorable Mentions:

  • Fallout (Fantasy Flight): I love this video game series, so I was pleased that the board game seems to be doing right by it. Great storytelling with later consequences for your decisions.
  • Meeple Circus (Matagot): A silly but fun game about stacking various wooden pieces (circus performers, animals, platforms, etc.) in creative ways to score points -- with no real-life animal abuse, as far as I can tell.
  • Secrets (Repos): An incredibly fun hidden-role game that is currently our most played game post-Gen Con. Funny enough, one of two Cold War-era hidden-role games that we picked up from the show (the other one we need to try more of: Red Scare by Pandasaurus).

Christina's Game of the Show: 
Photosynthesis (publisher: Blue Orange)
Christina: It’s always the one that got away...the one game, that is. I didn’t get around to playing Photosynthesis until Day 3, which meant that all I could do was demo a round in the Blue Orange booth and forlornly pine for the then sold-out game. With beautiful design, innovative mechanics (the differing sun position alters which positions on the board are most valuable), and a tight economy system, Photosynthesis is a must-have for a bio-nerd board game enthusiast like me.

Christina's Honorable Mentions:

  • Unearth (Brotherwise): The elegant geometric aesthetic inspired by the excellent mobile game Monument Valley grabs everyone’s attention; the simple, satisfying gameplay makes Unearth a crowd-pleaser. Roll pretty dice to collect sets of “ruins” cards. Do dice hate you? No worries, crappy rolls give you resources to balance the game
  • Bärenpark (Mayfair): Another “should’ve purchased at the time and now it’s sold out everywhere” regret -- strategically place Tetris-style tiles to build the best bear park!
  • Seikatsu (IDW): Design the most harmonious garden from your vantage point -- quick tile-placing game in which you have to balance short-term point gains (bird combos) with end-of-game scoring (flower combos).
  • Bunny Kingdom (Iello): Card-drafting plus bunny territory-control from Richard Garfield, the creator of Magic the Gathering (though Bunny Kingdom is nothing like it).