Going Analog

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

Gen Con 2022: The Non-Award Awards

Some best of, some worst of...but mostly just...stuff.

We might be the only content creators out there still talking about Gen Con 2022. Sure, other board game conventions are happening now or soon, but Gen Con’s the biggest in North America. And more importantly, our favorite.

We already showed off our Gen Con 2022 Games of the Show. But as is our tradition, we’ve got to our Non-Award Awards, too. (Due to COVID, the last time we did this was in 2019.) What are the “Non-Award Awards”? Really, just a bunch of nonsense: random things that caught our attention, interesting happenings around the big show, or other games that we want to recognize (and maybe not all for the right reasons).

Let’s get this nonsense started!

Most awesome/confusing demo: Turing Machine

No other game at Gen Con better exemplified how our Going Analog Podcast/Quiz Show hosts, Christina Ha and Dan “Shoe” Hsu, learn games differently. Turing Machine (which almost got our Game of the Show kudos) is an incredible logic-deduction game in which players race to find a hidden three-digit code via clues like “the sum of the digits are even” or “there are two or fewer ‘3s.’”

In round two of our demo, Shoe was still wrapping his head around how to interpret the clues, asking the demonstrator clarifying questions about how this game works. Literally that same round: Christina raised her hand and declared loudly and proudly, “Solved it!”

Since that ego-bruising moment, Shoe has avoided playing Turing Machine with Christina. Great game, though.

Best one-line pitch: Familiar Tales

Familiar Tales seems, well, familiar. Designer Jerry Hawthorne, through Plaid Hat Games, has made several popular and acclaimed story-based games involving little creatures going on grand adventures (see: Stuffed Fables, Mice and Mystics, and Aftermath). Familiar Tales…is a story-based game involving little creatures going on grand adventures.

But when we listened to Plaid Hat Marketing Manager Niki Shults describe it at Gen Con, one bit really got us.

In Familiar Tales, players are a wizard’s familiars, who must save and raise a baby princess. But how you care for her (feeding, protection from those who would do her harm, even diaper-changing) over the course of the campaign will determine whether she grows up to be a good or bad princess. That’s so awesome!

Now to find the right, nurturing friends to play this with….

The “Wait, Haven’t We Played This Before?” Award: Keepers

Speaking of familiar….

We came for Keepers’s art: stunning images from photographer Byron Jorjorian’s portfolio. Unfortunately, we didn’t stay for the gameplay: an almost complete rip-off of the classic Dixit.

The board game world has plenty of variations on the “Here’s a clue to get people to pick my card, others pick their own card that also fits that clue to steal votes, shuffle, everyone votes” formula. But they’re variations. Keeper keeps to the “if it ain’t broke, just steal it” adage. It plays exactly the same as Dixit.

(OK, to be fair, it does add one small twist: You can also lay out cards that try to communicate the opposite of the clue.)

Another one of these? OK, we’ll still buy it: Green Team Wins

The board game world also has a billion twists on the “Vote on something but pick what you think others will pick” style of anti-Scattergories gameplay: Bye, Felicia!, Blank Slate, Herd Mentality, and still the best of the bunch, Hive Mind, are a few that come to mind.

Green Team Wins plays the same but with an added level of tension and excitement. If you answer with the majority, you join the Green Team and score one point. If you answer again with the majority, you stay on the Green Team and score two points. But if you miss out, you drop to the Orange Team (scoring zero points that round) and have to try again to join the cool-kids club.

It’s also fast and streamlined compared to Hive Mind, so it’ll have a place in our collection when it comes out this fall.

(Special shout-out to Board Game Spotlight for introducing it to us.)

Cutest cuteness: boop.

Yes that’s boop. with a lowercase “b” and period. For an abstract game about kittens and cats jumping onto a bed to push the opponent’s feline pieces off. With a board is actually a soft quilt placed on top of a box lid that looks like a bed skirt.

There was nothing cuter at Gen Con. NOTHING.

Most fun while turning a blind eye: Kapow!

This superhero vs. supervillain customizable-dice game has a couple of things going against it: It gives you a lot of initially unituitive info (just a reference-chart wall of all the different things you can do), and it doesn’t present that to you in an aesthetically pleasing manner (the icons and fonts are as generic comic-book style as they come).

The character art itself, however, is perfectly fine -- in fact, better than most other non-licensed comic book board games we’ve seen. And the gameplay…oh, the gameplay. We’re not sure we were supposed to play a full game during this demo, but no one was keeping track of us, so we saw it through to the (bitter, for Shoe) end. And we wanted more.

This is a fantastic head-to-head game that deserves more attention (and better graphic design). 

Grumpiest booth workers: Miniature Market

By the end of Gen Con, these booth workers had no smiles or cordialities to offer customers. We’re not sure we can blame them, though.

If you wanted to secure one of the show’s limited copies of the highly sought after Twilight Inscription -- the roll-and-write version of the heavy-duty, all-day-playing 4X game Twilight Imperium -- you had better rush in as soon as the doors open and get in line at the MM booth.

By Sunday, the staff was barking very clear orders: line up here. One copy. Do not grab them. We will hand you one copy. It was so cold and no-nonsense that we felt like we were ordering soup from a certain sitcom deli.

We chatted up one of the workers and got a better understanding of what led to the strictness and attitudes. Earlier in the week, people were reaching past and practically pushing over other customers to get their prize purchase. It must’ve been a scene out of a local news station’s coverage of the worst of Black Friday. By day 4, Miniature Market wasn’t going to have any more of it.

Game that made us the hungriest: Nacho Pile

Sure, Nacho Pile is a push-your-luck game with a unique scoring twist at the end, but you really want it purely for the crinkly snack bag filled with plastic triangle chips. Pass the bag around and decide how many chips you want before you might bust (when y ou pull out a second chip with the same number) while trying to steal other players’ chips for your own plate. Then wash your hands and eat the Doritos that you’ve been dreaming about the whole time you’ve been playing.

Stupidest fun game: Gimme That!

What’s the theme? Potatoes. What’s the goal? Be the first to write out the numbers 1 through 100 on your potato sheet. What’s the twist? There’s only one pencil for the whole group.

Players pass around a die and perform actions as quickly (and annoyingly) as possible, as every other person wants to distract the pencil-owner by high-fiving, fist-pounding, playing a super loud drumroll on the table, forcing you to pass your paper to a neighbor, or outright stealing your pencil. It’s complete RNG, complete chaos, and complete stupid fun!

Art that burned into your eyeballs forever: Sexy Waluigi and Wario

We’re speechless with uncomfortable tingly feelings.