We spent hours and hours checking out new board games at this year's edition of the legendary convention. (Poor us, eh?)
Gen Con almost killed us -- and we don’t mean in a global pandemic sort of way. You see, we’ve been away from the convention scene for so long now that our soft feet were aching by lunchtime. Yes, on the first day of the show. Imagine our suffering by day four....
So even though North America’s largest tabletop gaming convention was, let’s see…just over three weeks ago as of this writing, we’ve only just now recovered enough to tap-tap our thoughts into written words about the event. (Hey, it was less taxing just to talk things out, so you can listen to our Post-Gen Con Wrap-Up Show on the Going Analog Podcast.)
If you want something a little less serious (than us giving out awards for board games), check out our Gen Con 2022: The Non-Award Awards. But for now, your show hosts Dan “Shoe” Hsu and Christina Ha will get serious and each hand out awards for their favorite games that Gen Con 2022 kindly introduced them to.
Best medium/heavy game
Shoe's pick: Cat in the Box
First comes the buzz. (“___ might sell out at Gen Con! Better buy it if you can get a copy.”) Then comes the FOMO. So we rushed to buy Cat in the Box at the opening of the show (before the aching-feet thing). And we definitely didn’t regret it.
Cat in the Box is a very unusual trick-taking card game -- unusual in that the cards (numbered 1-9) have no suits. No clubs or hearts. No blue or yellow.
Just how do you follow the lead suit in a trick-taking game when all the cards are black? That’s the pure beauty of Cat in the Box: Players assign a card’s color as they play them. A grid at the middle of the table shows what’s available (once a “green 7'' is marked, no one else can make any remaining 7s green). It’s certainly strange but never chaotic. This simple twist (plus the need to bet on how many tricks you think you can take in a round) makes Cat in the Box one of the most original and clever trick-taking games we’ve ever played.
(Special shout-out to Matt of Quartermaster Logistics for putting Cat in the Box on our radar.)
Christina's pick: Cat in the Box
Runners-up: Turing Machine, Brazil: Imperial
Shoe’s already told you about the gameplay, but I love how this trick-taking game is themed on the Schrodinger’s Cat thought experiment -- and Bezier Games made this deluxe printing so trippy and adorable. There’s a lot of game in a small box, and the gameplay progression as you figure out the strategy in the first few rounds is so satisfying…especially if you can hit your announced number of tricks for a scoring bonus. The added tension of hoping someone else will hit a paradox (getting blocked out of any legal card plays) before you is extra fun!
Muneyuki Yokouchi, the designer of Cat in the Box, also created another fantastic trick-taking game, Yokai Septet, that had a recent reprinting through Kickstarter. Check that out to see some earlier influences on Cat in the Box.
Best light/party game
Shoe's pick: Wildstyle
Runners-up: Night of the Ninja, Akropolis
Sometimes, the aforementioned “buzz” can come from the unlikeliest of sources: two random dudes in line at the Pandasaurus Games booth. We were there, waiting to purchase a couple of games not named Wildstyle, when we heard the customers in front of us raving about the real-time game of tagging different districts around the city. (Don’t try this, er, in your hometown.)
Assuming those guys weren’t plants and this was some ploy to get the oh-so-very famous Going Analog team to inquire about the game, their enthusiasm was palpable. Pandasaurus ended up giving us a copy, which soon became one of our most-played games after Gen Con. Race to grab cards, create sets, “tag” sections of the map to control certain sectors…and that’s it! It’s simple and unassuming, but almost everyone we’ve shown it to had the same reaction: “That was fun!” We agree.
Christina's pick: Akropolis
Runner-up: Green Team Wins
Another tile-laying game? YES. Akropolis is as if Kingdomino and NMBR 9 had a baby in ancient Greece -- it has super simple rules and offers rewarding tactical decisions. Draft some satisfyingly chonky tiles that contain differently colored sectors: Each "district" tallies differently, but your score will be multiplied by the number of matching "plazas" that you manage to put into your city. As an extra twist, you can build new tiles on top of previous tiles to gain more stone (which allow you to purchase tiles further in on the market track) and to increase the point values of the districts.
(Hachette Games provided Going Analog a media copy of Akropolis.)